by Ian Hargreaves of "The Liverpool Echo"

Liverpool are League Champions again !

Their victory over Chelsea today put them clear at the top of the League, with neither Everton nor West Ham able to catch them. Thousands of delighted Liverpool fans saluted their heroes, who have regained a title they lost to neighbours Everton only 12 months ago.

Victory was a special tribute to Kenny Dalglish, scorer of the vital goal against Chelsea, who has achieved success in his first season as manager, and who has had to combine that task with playing himself. Dalglish led his team to victory in person, and now stands just one step from completing a fantastic double next weekend, when the Reds meet Everton at Wembley.

Jan Molby failed a fitness test today and missed the vital match with Chelsea. His place was taken by Mark Lawrenson, omitted for the last two matches. Chelsea began with such a determined attack that it was a good 3 minutes before Liverpool gained possession. However, they failed to create any clear chances, and once they had settled down it was the Reds who looked more dangerous.

In the 5th minute Spackman slipped and missed the cross from Nicol leaving MacDonald with half a chance. He sent in a hard first-time shot only to see Godden push the ball round for a corner. Nicol also had a shot blocked and Johnston forced another save from Godden as Liverpool kept coming forward but Chelsea showed plenty of ideas and Grobbelaar had to come out well to take a high cross from Millar.

The big crowd were seeing plenty of entertainment with Liverpool settling down well though unable to take command.

Lawrenson was operating as the centre of three defenders at the back with Nicol and Beglin playing well forward and MacDonald running free in midfield. The combination was certainly giving Liverpool plenty of ball and it was no surprise when they took the lead in the 23rd minute through Kenny Dalglish.

Following a right wing corner Gillespie headed on to Beglin whose shot was cleared off the line for another corner. While the players were still settling Johnston sent the ball in, Beglin flicked it inside and Dalglish was in like a flash to put Liverpool in front with his 7th goal of the season. Chelsea continued to fight with spirit but Liverpool could have increased their lead when Nicol was just stopped in his tracks and Johnston fired narrowly wide. It was all very encouraging for the huge Liverpool contingent in the crowd who enjoyed seeing their side show such spirit and determination. Chelsea were coming more into the game now with Liverpool concentrating on avoiding mistakes.

Grobbelaar twice had to make good catches and followed that with a fairly straightforward save when Spackman came charging in to test him with a header from Nevin's free kick. The half ended with Chelsea continuing to attack but making little real impression on the strong Liverpool defence.

Half time : Chelsea 0, Liverpool 1.

Chelsea began the second half rather like the first, cramming on tremendous pressure, without achieving very much. Liverpool were content to defend their lead, knocking long passes forward to Rush and Dalglish and one of them nearly paid off. A slip by Rougvie let in Rush who was then brought down by the defender. Unfortunately the free kick produced nothing.

Chelsea continued to press and there were strenuous appeals for a penalty when Speedie went down after a challenge by Lawrenson. Referee Shapter would have none of it and waved play on, an obviously correct decision though it upset the Chelsea fans.

Liverpool had produced little constructive this half so far, but rarely looked in danger themselves as they tackled and covered relentlessly. Play had generally been hard but fair though Rush may not have thought so when he caught Rougvie's elbow in his face. A brief flare-up between Johnston and Millar let Mr Shapter to lecture both players briefly but there was no real malice involved.

A few minutes later MacDonald got his name in the referee's book for the second game in succession when he caught Spackman with a wild lunge that was largely accidental but still had the effect of sending the Chelsea player sprawling in agony until he received treatment.

Much of Liverpool's midfield control had seemed to have disappeared, and when MacDonald finally pushed a good pass through for Rush the striker was caught narrowly offside. Chelsea were still creating very little themselves though Nevin was beginning to come into things. The match had started to die a little now with Liverpool unwilling to risk anything much.

However with a quarter of an hour to go Dalglish had an excellent chance to clinch the game when he received the ball just outside the penalty area and was left free to shoot almost at will. From 25 yards out he tried to dip a shot over the goalkeeper's head but only succeeded in sending it a couple of feet over the bar.

Another fine pass by Dalglish almost got Johnston in on the right and it took a desperate effort by Millar to clear at the expense of a corner.

Liverpool were putting in a determined finish, and after Dalglish had had a shot blocked in the goalmouth, Nicol hit a 20 yarder high over the bar from the resultant corner.

Copyright - "The Liverpool Echo"

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