GESET - Liverpool's first-ever European Final in 1966
"The Greatest European Story Ever Told" is an epic undertaking started by the brilliant Wooltonian to raise money for The Hillsborough Justice Campaign. It is no longer available in book-form and not hosted anywhere for free access but Wooltonian sent it to us to share with Reds all over the world at LFChistory.net. The Greatest European Story Ever Told (GESET) stands at over 100 pages and covers every match the Reds have played in Europe since Liverpool's first game against KR Reykjavik in August 1964. It tells the stories of the games and interweaves many humorous fan recollections regarding their adventures away from home.
Hampden Park in Glasgow was the setting for Liverpool Football Club's first ever-European Final in 1966. Borussia Dortmund were the opponents, the European Cup Winners Cup was the competition and after defeating Celtic over two legs in a momentous semi-final hopes were high that Liverpool, in only their second season of continental competition, could complete a unique league and cup double. Five days before the Cup Winners Cup Final Bill Shankly's Reds clinched the league title with a 2-1 home win against Chelsea and confidence in the camp was sky-high as the 14-man squad – minus injured semi-final hero Geoff Strong – arrived in Glasgow. Liverpool made their base in the seaside resort of Largs, while opponents Borussia Dortmund were staying further up the coast in Troon. Back in September Borussia's vice-president had stated that Liverpool was the team he feared most in the competition but his own side were a formidable force themselves. Their star-studded forward line consisted of five German internationals and in the last four they had successfully disposed of Cup Winners Cup holders West Ham, defeating them home and away with an impressive showing.
Liverpool's preparation for what would be one of the biggest games the club had ever played was typically meticulous. Reuben Bennett had been dispatched to Germany to run the rule over Dortmund on a number of occasions and ahead of the game the players sat down and watched a video of the semi-final victory over West Ham. Leading goal scorer Roger Hunt was the Reds main injury worry ahead of the final and on the day before the striker was ordered by Bob Paisley to paddle in the icy waters of the Clyde Estuary before being prescribed heat treatment in the evening. After which Hunt commented, "I feel great. "Despite torrential rain on the morning of the match 20,000 Liverpudlians left Liverpool by rail, road and air to cheer on their heroes. All roads out of the city were reported to be jam-packed, while Exchange Station was besieged by fans throughout the morning and six specially chartered flights flew from Speke to Glasgow. On arriving in Scotland the weather was no better but the red masses lit up an otherwise grey and rain swept Hampden Park. The dismal conditions, live TV coverage and the fact that Celtic had been knocked out in the semi-final restricted the crowd at the 130,000 capacity stadium to just over 41,000 and although the travelling Kopites vastly outnumbered their German counterparts the majority of neutral support went to Borussia, the Scots having not forgiven Liverpool for eliminating the Celts.
In a first half of few opportunities Liverpool enjoyed the greater possession but the Germans created the best of the chances. The opening minute saw Borussia left back Redder clear off the line from St John and later in the half he almost headed into his own net. At the opposite end Lawrence saved brilliantly to deny Schmidt and when Held charged through the Reds defence the 'flying pig' was alert to parry a powerful shot. Liverpool began the second half in dominant fashion. Milne was pulling the strings in midfield and the Reds began to exert pressure. Milne shot wide and Stevenson had a shot saved. However, they were rocked by a Borussia goal against the run of play on – minutes. In a rare lapse, Milne lost possession deep in the Dortmund half and was severely punished. Assauer launched the Borussia attack, only their second of the half. His pass found Held who, in turn, fed Emmerich out on the touchline. Held then raced towards goal to receive the return pass, finding space in between Yeats and Smith on the edge of the Liverpool penalty box and smashing home Emmerich's cross past a static Lawrence who was given no chance. Liverpool refused to be shaken by the shock of conceding the goal and seven minutes later they drew level amid controversial circumstances. Thompson raced past three Borussia players down the left wing before centering from the by-line. Borussia's players claimed the ball had crossed the line but play continued and the cross found Hunt who pulled the ball down with his right foot and then hammered it high into the net with his left. Hundreds of Liverpudlians swarmed on to the Hampden Park pitch in celebration as the entire Borussia team protested to the referee. Confusion reigned but the goal stood and once the pitch was cleared Liverpool pressed forward in search of a winner.
As the minutes ticked by the Reds launched a vigorous assault on the Borussia goal and in the final minute St John's pass sent Hunt racing clean through with only the keeper to beat. But instead of opting for a first time shot the normally lethal finisher decided to take the ball on a few yards and his subsequent tame shot was comfortably saved. Looking back Hunt recalls: "In the last few seconds of normal time the ball broke right for me to hit with my left foot, but I thought the centre half was coming to block it and I tried to take it a little further and overran it. Thinking back I think I should have hit it first time, but I did what I thought was the right thing at the time. "It was a miss that would haunt Hunt but as the game went into extra time Liverpool remained in the ascendancy. St John headed straight at the keeper, Smith shot wide and Callaghan missed from close-range.
Borussia seemed content to sit back and soak up the pressure and that was exactly what they did until the 107th minute. With their first attack of extra time centre back Paul's free kick over the Reds defence saw Held bearing down on goal. Lawrence raced off his line to save bravely on edge of the box. Unfortunately the ball bounced straight to Libuda, 40 yards from goal and with a gaping goal at his mercy he intelligently lobbed the ball over a stranded Lawrence. Yeats made a desperate attempt to race back but as the ball came back off the inside of the post it was cruelly deflected into the net off the body of a distraught Reds captain. It was enough to end Liverpool's European dream and Borussia Dortmund became the first German club to win a European trophy. On reflection Yeats recalls: "We all wanted to do especially well because it was in Britain, and we Scottish lads felt it a bit more keenly for being at Hampden. That goal was bad enough, but it wasn't just that. We didn't do ourselves justice on the night. We pounded them at times, but they weren't a bad side and came back at us." Bill Shankly was less complimentary about Liverpool's opponents when speaking in the aftermath of the match: "We were beaten by a team of frightened men. It was obviously their plan from the start simply to keep us in subjection. They had no real attacking plan but they won and I am quite sincere when I say they are the worst team we met in the competition this season. "If Tommy Smith and Roger Hunt would have been fully fit we would have won easily. Smith injured an ankle six weeks ago and aggravated the injury early in the game it early in the game. Hunt injured his ankle again midway through the first half."
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