Analysis of the game

Off the field, chairman Harry Reynolds was hoping for a bumper day at the turnstiles.

Rob Bagchi and Paul Rogerson: "While the team was learning its lesson, Harry Reynolds had not yet learned his from the Charles fiasco. He couldn't help getting carried away, and … gleefully prepared for the first capacity crowd at Elland Road since the 1920s. The club had reverted to their 'premium' pricing policy, and this time the lack of protest seemed to indicate that the increases were thought justified. No one got rich, however, betting on the Leeds public's enthusiasm … the ground was 19,000, one-third short of capacity … it was an unambiguous indication of the real strength of football in the city. This reluctance of the floating core of Leeds supporters to show up in numbers is the fundamental reason why the club's credibility as a 'big' club was so regularly questioned. For far too long, whatever roots the club had laboured to establish still lay in shallow soil.

"Even so, Reynolds' misplaced optimism had potentially disastrous consequences for the fans that did bother to turn up. His expectation of at least a 50,000 attendance led to the paddock stands being crammed full while vast swathes of terracing behind the goals were left vacant for all the non existent latecomers. One fan complained that the crush was so intense he feared for his life; conditions, others claimed, were 'like the black hole of Calcutta'. Luckily for a penitent Reynolds, there were no major casualties."

The teams were blissfully unaware of any problems in the crowd and when play kicked off, Liverpool adopted their normal approach, with the No 9, Chisnall, taking St John's customary deep lying role, leaving Hunt and Wallace to forage up front. According to the Yorkshire Evening Post's Phil Brown: "Liverpool opened with the supreme confidence they quite rightly could feel, and also with a lot of the splendid football they were expected to show." The wingers, Ian Callaghan and Peter Thompson, had some early success and were a constant threat to Paul Reaney and Willie Bell.

Leeds, however, were well up for battle and worked hard to get into the contest with Billy Bremner and Norman Hunter showing strongly, and Bobby Collins creating havoc. According to the Yorkshire Post's Eric Stanger, Collins "made Milne, the current England right-half, look a plodder".

In Stanger's view it was the respective pace of the two teams that really set them apart - Liverpool "played rather too studiedly, often too short and too square", while "Leeds used the longer ball for the most part and by constantly switching the direction of attack often pulled a slow moving Liverpool defence out of position".

Liverpool were exhibiting the calm assurance of champions, confident that they would weather the early storm and emerge victorious in the long term, but were undoubtedly troubled by dynamic opponents.

The Reds had already had a lucky escape before United took the lead in the 16th minute: full-back Gerry Byrne attempted a back pass under pressure from Don Weston, but goalkeeper Tommy Lawrence could do nothing as the ball struck a post. The Scottish custodian was similarly helpless when Albert Johanneson's shot from the edge of the 18-yard box hit Ron Yeats on the shoulder and kicked up and under the bar to register a fortunate opener. The 1-0 advantage was, however, no more than United merited for their positive approach.

Their hopes were somewhat dimmed eight minutes later when their defence was undone by a quick Liverpool combination across the field. Sprake caught a downward header from Hunt after the England man connected with a short centre from Callaghan, but the keeper collided with Reaney as he fell and spilled the ball into the net.

Liverpool continued to play as if it was only a matter of time before class would tell and exuded confidence, but they really were being comprehensively outfought and outplayed.

With five minutes remaining before the break, the Merseysiders' defence was slow to react to an attack and Weston nodded Storrie's centre into the goal to give Leeds a 2-1 lead at the interval.

Don Revie made the most of his half time team talk and the excitable crowd were driven into ecstasy as the ten minutes after the break saw their heroes assume an emphatic 4-1 lead.

Both goals came from combination work by Bremner and Giles. First the Irishman pulled the ball back for Bremner to beat Lawrence with a powerful drive and then the Scot rolled a free kick to Giles to hammer home from 30 yards.

This was incredible stuff and the fans were in delirium, chanting, "We want five". They were, if truth be known, never going to get a fifth, but certainly their men had made Liverpool second best on the day.

There was some uncertainty as the minutes ticked by, with the Reds pulling one goal back in the 70th minute. Gordon Milne managed to force home the rebound after Gary Sprake pushed his initial penalty kick onto a post after Bremner's foul on Hunt, but it was surprisingly Bill Shankly's men who became the more ragged outfit in the closing stages.

There were near misses and close calls, but United, with Jack Charlton calm assurance itself, saw out the threat to secure a historic 4-2 triumph.


Billy Bremner: "Don Revie told us to go out and prove that we were a match, and more, for them. His words inspired us and put us in exactly the right frame of mind for the task ahead. It was quite a task, of course, but we settled quickly and played the way we had performed in the second half against Villa. Liverpool were excellent -- as good as we had expected -- but we were not going to pay them too much respect and I think they were uneasy long before we were because the unflappable Ron Yeats scored our first goal for us. I pulled his leg about that later. As a fellow Scot I got away with it. He opened the floodgates with that own goal … our supporters certainly celebrated after that!"

Norman Hunter: "I remember our performance that day as being very much a team effort. Everyone put in the extra effort but we also played some neat and creative football … we deserved to be the glory boys on this occasion. We never allowed ourselves to feel inferior to anybody for the simple reason that we didn't think we were. No one had done us any favours. We were there because we were good enough."

Eric Stanger: "It was Leeds United's wonderful team spirit … which saw them through, but they also showed a considerable amount of skill. At times Leeds played really fine, imaginative football and had Liverpool struggling for most of the game."

Phil Brown: "United beat the pride of Merseyside, England's European Cup team, fairly and squarely on all points of football in a nigh level game … It was United's night in attack and defence. I do not think any United side since the war, remembering the quality of the opposition, has played such incisive football as United did last night … It must have been fine reward for the board and Don Revie after all their efforts to give this city a club and a side to go with the best in the land."

These were extremely early days in a momentous season, but United were now one of just five teams with maximum points after the first two rounds of fixtures. As Phil Brown remarked: "Only time and a few more results to match, of course, will really tell, but last night's match could set even this fickle city alight." How right he was!

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