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Great matches: Liverpool beat Real in Paris

 

Liverpool v Real Madrid (European Cup Final, Paris) : 27th May 1981

Background

Liverpool, winners in 1977 & 1978, had been dethroned as European champions by Nottingham Forest, winners in 1979 & 1980. But the nucleus of the team which had defeated Bruges at Wembley in 1978 was still there. It had, however, suffered the disappointment of first round elimination to Forest & Dynamo Tibilisi in the two seasons that followed their retention of the trophy in London. Forest themselves were to learn what it was like to lose at the first stage of the competition as they were defeated home and away by CSKA Sofia, while Liverpool had a much easier opportunity to progress against the Finns from Oulu. Terry McDermott’s early goal was enough to give Liverpool a draw in the first leg before the Finns were thrashed 10-1 at Anfield with both McDermott & Souness grabbing hat-tricks.

As Autumn turned into Winter, Liverpool eased their way through to the quarter-final stage by beating Alex Ferguson’s Aberdeen home and away. A marvellous early goal created by Dalglish & Johnson and finished by McDermott was enough to win the opening match at Pittodrie followed by a much more comfortable four-goal victory at Anfield. Forest’s conquerors Sofia were thrashed by a similar margin when they came to Merseyside in March and David Johnson’s early goal in the return leg ensured that any slight hope of a Bulgarian comeback was quickly ended.

Old adversaries from the 1970’s Bayern Munich would be Liverpool’s opponents in the semi-final. The Germans held the hosts to a 0-0 draw on Merseyside and returned to Bavaria in confident even cocky mood. Any overconfidence would come back to haunt them. Paul Breitner made some unpleasant and uncomplimentary comments about Liverpool’s style of play and by the time Bob Paisley’s squad arrived at Munich’s Olympic stadium, thousands of leaflets had been left on the seats advising Bayern’s supporters about travel and ticket arrangements for the final in Paris.

Team selection was a headache for Paisley because a number of experienced men were not available. The relatively inexperienced Colin Irwin & Richard Money started the game and with less than 10 minutes gone Kenny Dalglish was the victim of a gruesome tackle that looked like keeping him out for the rest of the season, another inexperienced player Howard Gayle coming on to take his place. Gayle was inspired and played the game of his life before bruised and battered he too was substituted (by Jimmy Case) with 20 minutes remaining. By then David Johnson was just a limping passenger and yet he was still able to centre from the right and give Ray Kennedy the chance to score the first goal of the tie with just 7 minutes remaining. That away goal would prove to be priceless. Karl-Heinz Rummennige equalised for Bayern and Liverpool endured some difficult moments before the referee’s whistle blew for the last time to signify an inspired success against all the odds.

Real Madrid’s path to the final had seen them defeat Limerick & Honved home and away before seeing off Moscow Spartak to set up a semi-final with Inter Milan. Real beat the Italians 3-1 on aggregate to qualify for their first European cup final since 1966.

The Final

Hordes of Liverpool supporters made their way across the Channel by various means to reach the French capital. Kenny Dalglish had played in none of the remaining league matches since limping off in Munich but he was too important and influential a man to be left out of the starting line-up, despite not having played competitive football for over a month. After missing 6 consecutive league matches, Alan Kennedy made a return in the final league fixture against Manchester City eight days before the final and was also deemed fit to start the final. The young men who had performed so heroically in Germany the previous month would have to be content with a place on the bench.

For all the flair and imagination Real had shown in the first 5 European cup finals (18 goals), tactics had changed and most people expected a tight game. The previous two finals had been decided by the slenderest of margins, as would this one too and the next two finals. It would be 1984 and Liverpool’s next final in this tournament before both teams managed to score. It wasn’t pretty to watch and the Spanish had plenty of men who weren’t afraid to make crunching tackles. The lively Cunningham was often a threat but Phil Neal marked him tightly and later described this final as being probably his best ever defensive performance for the club. Liverpool gave as good as they got when it became physical but chances for both teams were limited until things woke up somewhat in the second period and Camacho narrowly chipped over the bar. With time running out and extra-time looking more and more likely, Liverpool were awarded a throw-in on the left, which Ray Kennedy took. His namesake Alan made a forward run, took the ball on his chest and somehow avoided an attempt by Cortes to decapitate him before smashing a left-foot shot inside Agustin’s near post and running away to celebrate with the Liverpool supporters massed behind the goal.

Liverpool were closer to increasing their lead in the closing minutes than Madrid were to restoring parity. Spanish heads went down once Kennedy had scored and the travelling fans prepared to party. Hungarian Referee Karoly Palotai strangely decided to blow the final whistle slightly before 45 minutes had elapsed, never mind add anything on for substitutions, injuries and time-wasting. But nobody in the Liverpool camp was complaining. For the third time in five seasons, Liverpool had reached the pinnacle of European football and Bob Paisley became the only man to manage or coach three different European cup-winning teams. Phil Thompson proudly walked up to collect the huge trophy at the Parc des Princes and consigned the two recent first-round defeats to distant memory. Liverpool Football Club had once again become the continent’s premier team.

Liverpool: Clemence, Neal, Alan Kennedy, Thompson, Ray Kennedy, Hansen, Dalglish (Case 86), Lee, Johnson, McDermott, Souness.

Unused Substitutes: Ogrizovic, Irwin, Money, Gayle

Real Madrid: Agustin, Garcia Cortes (Pineda), Garcia Navajas, Sabido, del Bosque, Angel, Camacho, Stielike, Juanito, Santillana, Cunningham.

Attendance: 48,360

Copyright - Chris Wood

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