On May 25 in Rome Liverpool will attempt to fulfil their 13-year-old ambition by becoming only the third British club to win the European Cup. They will meet Borussia Moenchengladbach in the final. Despite continuous involvement in the three European competitions over such a long period, Liverpool have never before reached the most senior final, but last night by competently dismissing a weak and defeatist Zurich team in the second leg of the semi-final round at Anfield they won the oportunity to crown more than a decade of remarkable consistency. The aggregate score was 6-1 and though Liverpool had played many more difficult European matches, none was so memorably important.
The first leg in Switzerland had prepared their way to the final, and last night's formal completion of the last groundwork was done without too much unnecessary effort being wasted in a week that ends with another important game on Saturday, their FA Cup semi-final against Everton. By comparison with previous European occasions at Anfield, it was an almost anonymous affair, deprived of real interest by Liverpool's undisputed superiority.
Zurich, allegedly strengthened by the return of their Sicilian forward, Cucinotta, who missed the first leg through suspension, failed to prove the point. They were no more impressive than in Switzerland a fortnight before and it was Liverpool's understandably casual face that determined the character of a comparatively quiet night.
For half an hour, the Swiss champions survived their own mistakes as the pressure slowly built up against their uncertain defence. Occasionally they broke away, aways to be stopped well before the penalty area. They had only one hope, which was to score early, but Cucinotta, Botteron and Risi found the gaps quickly closed in front of them. Heighway again pulled their defenders wide, as he had in most of Liverpool's European games this season, and this allowed Keegan plenty of room in the middle of the attack. His fine volley from Smith's glanced header across the penalty area, deflected away by Grob in the Zurich goal, was the best of several chances that came in the first half an hour.
The crowd of over 50,000 settled back patiently prepared to accept a largely lifeless game in the cause of progress towards a special goal. Zurich's ambition soon withered, and after 33 minutes they bungled a clearance that gave Liverpool an unassailable 4-1 aggregate lead. Grob threw the ball vaguely in Chapusat's direction but the surprised defender was unaware of both the clearance and impending danger as Case closed in. Grob tried to narrow the angle as an apology, but Case's shot easily beat him.
Zurich obviously had a numbing sense of inferiority, and one must say that they were so out of their depth that they trembled like prisoners in their own half, contributing virtually nothing and, presumably, expecting nothing. Even when a thrown ball from Clemence that was intended for Smith fell in the path of Cucinotta, the shot merely trapped itself in the side-netting.
The second half brouhgt tangible evidence of Liverpool's mastery. A superb second goal from Case also brought the Kop to life. Kennedy made to take a free kick some 10 yards out from the penalty area, but stepped aside and Case followed up to pound an astonishing powerful drive past transfixed defenders and a demoralised goalkeeper.
When Heighway, who had struggled against a leg injury from the early minutes of the game, finally left the field, Waddle substituted, bringing useful height to the attack. The advantage was well used when, four minutes after the second goal, Kennedy dropped a long drifting centre into the penalty area. Waddle strongly won the ball in the air and headed against the bar. Keegan saw his chance and headed in the rebound. But Zurich's sadly inferior performance was even more embarrasingly emphasised in the last moments when Cucinotta sent Risi away with only Clemence ahead of him. Clemence felt no generosity and carried out a calculated sliding tackle and at the end the Kop refused to go home.
Copyright - The Times