David Lacey at Wembley
Wednesday May 10, 1978
Liverpool, playing marvellously co-ordinated football at times, became the European Cup when they defeated Bruges, the Belgian champions, 1-0 at Wembley last night to rapturous accompaniment from their supporters, whose songs of rejoicing rang loud and long into a warm, clear London night.
After struggling for a time to disentangle themselves from their opponents tight marking and outwit their offside tactics. Liverpool's football found something, though by no means all, of the quality of Rome where they won the European Cup a year ago. Birger Jensen, Bruges' Danish goalkeeper, thwarted them for a time but 25 minutes from the end, Kenny Dalglish won Liverpool the match with his 30th goal of the season, and apart from one precarious moment when the ball was cleared off the line, it was all over bar the singing.
If Liverpool did not achieve quite the simple, ritualistic victory that many had expected and while none of their players became the dominant figure that Kevin Keegan had been in Rome, they still produced an impressively intelligent performance which in some ways was more creditable than their defeat of Borussia Moenchengladbach, who fell far below their potential.
Bruges were more awkward opponents. They were without Courant's skilful influence in midfield and the possibility of the injured Lambert making an appearance in attack could only have been a rumour put about to disconcert the enemy. lacking two such important players, they decided to concentrate on stifling Liverpool's movements with dedicated man-to-man marking and an offside trap ever improving in efficiency.
The way Liverpool set about defeating these negative but for a time highly effective tactics was the most interesting aspect of their performance and demonstrated the change in the English champions' make-up that has been taking place during the season just ended. There was a time when a Liverpool side presented with such opposition would have become nervous and impatient, ballooning the ball upfield and becoming over reliant on corners and free kicks for scoring chances.
Last night they solved the problem amid the full flow of play. Souness, with his beautifully struck, finely weighted passes began the process of dismantling the Bruges cover and McDermott, his positioning and perception on the ball again an integral part of Liverpool's success, completed it. Kennedy was not as strong an influence as he had been in earlier rounds but Fairclough's persistent harrying of the Belgian defence more than compensated for this.
The overall impression of Liverpool's performance last night was of an accomplished team, strong in tradition and experience, confident of victory and patient in its pursuit. Only twice did Bruges offer them a serious threat. Early in the second half, an excellent crossfield ball from Vandereycken gave Sorensen the chance to slip past Hughes on the right. The Dane was blocked before he could shoot, but the ball was not cleared and Clemence nearly lost a race for possession with Ku, a Hungarian brought in at the last moment by Ernst Happel, the Bruges coach.
Five minutes from the end, Sorensen unnerved the Liverpool defence by running straight at them with the ball - it was, after all, a rare occurrence - again he was stopped, but with Clemence off his line and Simonsen taking aim, the possibility of extra time loomed briefly. Thompson, however, was behind the goalkeeper to block.
Liverpool suffered a multitude of near misses, most of them in the 30 minutes straddling half time when their football reached its height. Kennedy volleyed the ball across the face of goal; Case's thunderous free kick was punched away by Jensen, who in the closing minutes of the first half first blocked Fairclough as he ran through, then tipped over the bar a header from Hansen.
Early in the second half, Jensen flung himself at the feet of McDermott who had started and seemed likely to finish an exquisite passing movement with Souness and Dalglish that had the Bruges cover looking statuesque, the offside trap gaping in astonishment. Bruges made a couple of substitutions, Sanders replacing Ku and Volders coming on for Maes, but the replacement of Case by Heighway, newly recovered from an injured rib, was more significant because Liverpool's attacks had much more width once the Irishman had been introduced. Heighway had not been on the field a minute before Liverpool scored with a goal that summed up their thoughtful mood of the night. There seemed minimal danger to Bruges as Neal held the ball in a confined space near the right hand corner flag. Then the full back released it to McDermott and a marvellous little chip found its way along the by-line to Dalglish to open up all manner of possibilities. The ball went back to Souness who held it long enough for everyone to move onside, the squeezed his most telling pass of the game through to Dalglish, whose shot went wide of Jensen's despairing right hand.
Case and Vandereycken were cautioned during a brief spell of mutual frustration in the first half, but generally it was a clean fought encounter, not the best European Cup final there has been, but by no means the worst, and for Liverpool the ultimate confirmation of their present status as the most successful English club of all time.
Bob Paisley, the Liverpool manager, blamed Bruges for the lack of excitement in the match. He said: "It takes two teams to make a game into a spectacle and Bruges only seemed to be concerned with keeping the score down.
Bruges didn't come at us much - apart from one mistake in our defence, they never looked like scoring. But they were well organised at the back and it was a case of breaking them down. We controlled the game from start to finish."
Ernst Happel, the Bruges manager, was unimpressed by Liverpool. He said; "Liverpool seemed only a shadow of the side we played in the Uefa Cup final two seasons ago. I was disappointed with them, but they deserved their victory although we were handicapped by injuries to two players."
Liverpool Clemence, Neal, Hansen, Thompson, Kennedy, Hughes, Dalglish, Case, Fairclough, McDermott, Souness.
Bruges Jensen, Bastijns, Krieoer, Leekens, Maes, Cooles, Vandereycken, De Cubber, Simoen, Ku, Sorensen.
Referee C Corver (Holland)
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