columnist Richard Buxton reminisces back to the last time his beloved
Liverpool and Real Madrid last crossed swords.
Rafael Benitez will take his Liverpool team back to the
Spanish capital next Wednesday for the second time this season, to his boyhood
club no less, but the tie at the Bernabeu stadium is significant as it will be
the first competitive game between the Reds and Los Blancos since Wednesday 27
May 1981. A single goal from Alan Kennedy in Paris that night was enough to win
Liverpool the European Cup, Bob Paisley's third as manager and a record that
has yet to be beaten by any other English club manager.
The Reds' route to the Gay Paree was a more than comfortable
one starting with a high-scoring win over Oulun Palloseura in September 1980. A Terry McDermott goal saw a 1-1 draw in
Finland but an emphatic 10-1 scoreline at Anfield in the return leg. McDermott
was vying for the match ball with Graeme Souness after the pair each scored a
hat trick in the game which also saw goals from David Fairclough, Sammy Lee and
Ray Kennedy. Wins against Aberdeen and CSKA Sofia followed to set Paisley's side
up for a semi final affair with only Bayern Munich standing in the way of
Liverpool's third European Cup final in five years.
The Germans came to Anfield full of confidence and
Liverpool, missing the presence of Graeme Souness in midfield, struggled to break
down the Bayern defence. Despite the balance being tipped in the visitors' favour,
the first leg ended goalless. The return leg in the Olympia stadion saw the
return of Souness as well as the introduction of young Howard Gayle. The Toxteth-born
forward was brought on as a substitute after just nine minutes when Kenny
Dalglish limped off injured. Gayle, then Liverpool's first black player, ground
down Bayern's defence with surging runs and great skill. As a result the home
side's tackles increased in brutality and the reserve was substituted after 70
minutes. Ray Kennedy scored in the 83rd minute which meant that Bayern had to
win the game to book their place in the final. Despite a Karl-Heinz Rummenigge
goal four minutes later, Liverpool won the tie on the away goals rule and were
on their way to their third European Cup final.
In the final they faced the legendary Real Madrid at the
Parc des Princes in Paris. Los Merengues were the heavyweights of the competition
and had won five back-to-back crowns between 1956 and 1960. Both sides went into
the clash having lost their respective league championship crowns. Liverpool
had finished in 5th place, nine points behind winners Aston Villa but had
lifted their first League Cup against West Ham United. The final at Wembley
ended in a 1-1 draw after Alan Kennedy had scored three minutes from the end of
extra time but the Reds were denied a win at the Twin Towers after West Ham
equalised with a Ray Stewart penalty that proved to be the last kick of the
game. In the replay at Villa Park goals from Alan Hansen and Kenny Dalglish
gave Liverpool the trophy despite a Paul Goddard consolation.
Real, meanwhile, failed to record a fourth consecutive
title, losing the crown on goal difference to Real Sociedad. However the
Spanish season finished exactly one month before the final, unlike the First
Division which saw Liverpool have only eight days between the end of their
domestic campaign and the day of the final to prepare.
Alan Kennedy, who scored in the League Cup final earlier
that season, was selected for the match despite only featuring in the last game
of the season against Manchester City after six weeks on the sidelines with a
broken wrist. The defender doubted whether he would feature in the final but
was selected for a starting role by Paisley and it was a decision that left him
indebted to the Liverpool manager.
"Because of my broken wrist I'd been sweating on
whether I would play in the final", he recalls.
"When Bob told me I would I just remember thinking 'I
can't let him down.
"The other lads like Richard Money and Colin Irwin had
done extremely well without me to reach the final and he could have played one
of them, or Avi Cohen in my place.
"But Bob took a chance on me, probably because he knew
I was a natural left-footed player who could defend and get forward to support
As Liverpool prepared for their fifth European final in
eight years, their supporters descended on the French capital. Peter Carter
remembers the scene as the travelling Kop stepped off the train at Saint Lazare
"There was safety
in numbers and in case of an unwelcoming committee we congregated as we pulled
into the station.
butterflies led to a loud and aggressive 'LIV-ER-POOL LI-VER-POOL' as the
stations' acoustics amplified the chant to what sounded like hundreds instead
of the 60 or so who alighted. Alas, the only committee was a score of scallies who
gave a rousing rendition of 'On the dole, Drinking wine in Paree'.
"This was our 'up yours' reply to the establishment and
its gutter press who were already well on the way to pillorying Merseyside and
Paul Brannon was one of the thousands of supporters that
went into the Parc des Princes quietly confident of a Liverpool victory despite
the media's attempts to dismiss their side's progress to the final.
"As usual, the
papers tried to play down our achievements.
editorials ran along the lines of, 'don't be fooled into thinking this Real Madrid
side are like the famous team who won the first five European cups and have six
"To read them, it was as though they'd got there by
luck. No team that contained Jose Camacho, Ulli Stielike, Vicente Del Bosque
and Redondo, not to mention Laurie Cunningham, could be treated lightly though.
"Into the smart looking stadium we went and were not
astonished to find the Anfield contingent were all together."
As the teams entered the pitch they were greeted by a
cauldron of noise from all sides. Peter Carter was one of those voices:
"Their end was
white to the core, a cacophony of incessant thumping, Lambeg drum style. Ours
was an ocean of red and white; waves of plain and chequered flags, Union Jacks
and the odd Tricolor; scarves, hats and banners, and naturally the singing and
"We didn't really
have a song for the occasion, but it mattered not. Ours is a rich history, with
songs aplenty; a colourful tapestry unsurpassed anywhere, and we, the five of
us and many thousands more, sang our hearts out."
Alan Hansen admits that was pre-match nerves got the better
of him on the night. He said: "I was
even more nervous in Paris than I'd been in the 1978 final against Bruges at
Wembley. Usually when I got out
onto the pitch I felt better. But not that night."
The match itself was a tight affair with very little between
the sides with Real showing a highly aggressive front as Bob Paisley described
in his post match press conference.
"It was a very
physical first half and some of the Real Madrid tackling was outrageous, to say
the least," he said.
"But at the same
time they had players of real quality. We started quite well but we were upset,
probably, by some of the tackles. It was a triumph for our character once
again. We started with three players – Dalglish, Thompson and Alan Kennedy –
short of match practise, and Graeme Souness was hurt shortly after the kick-off."
Souness remembers those tackles all too well and admits that
they were a bit extreme even by his own raw standards. "Some of their tackles were X-certificate and in the first few
minutes we were knocked out of our stride by the violence of their challenges.
"I decided that
they needed a little of their own medicine to slow them down and to show that
we could not be intimidated. It was then that I picked out the nasty Camacho,
but as I closed in to give him a little nip, the German Stielike came in on my blindside
and left me a limping passenger for the remainder of the game."
In the 82nd minute Liverpool won a throw in deep in Madrid's
half which Ray Kennedy took. He played it long to his namesake Alan Kennedy who
advanced towards Real's penalty area from the left hand side. He beat Rafael
Garcia Cortes and blasted the ball past Agustin Rodriguez to give Liverpool the
This is how Barney Rubble himself remembers it:
"Ray Kennedy took
the throw-in, I have to say I didn't particularly want the ball, I wasn't
looking for it, I was just trying to help other players out to create a little
bit of space. He threw the ball in, it hit me on the chest, and it bounced
down. It was one of those occasions that the player came in – Cortes – to take
me out of the game and nothing happened.
thinking, 'what are you going to do? What are you going to do? Is it a shot? Is
it a cross?' and basically I just blasted the ball towards the goal with the
best shot I could muster and the goalkeeper made the fatal move to the left.
"The ball went over his shoulder and into the back of
the net. I just set off behind the goal to celebrate in front of all the jubilant
Liverpool fans. It was what dreams are made of. I was just pleased for myself,
my family and for the whole of Merseyside."
After the final whistle had blown all that was left to do
was for Captain Phil Thompson to fulfil a lifelong dream and lift the European
"That was the finest moment of my life, without question," he said.
"To have gone from watching my heroes from the Kop to captaining the team
I loved and leading them to victory in the European Cup Final was just
unbelievable. There is no way I can express that feeling in words. Proud
doesn't begin to describe how I felt.
lifting it towards my mates from my Sunday League team in Kirkby who were in
the crowd that night – I could see them on the front row of the top balcony. It
was for them, for me, for everyone in Liverpool."
As the Liverpool fans danced long into the night, Kopites
Paul Brannon and Stephen Conchie left Paris with their own unique tales
following the capture of old Big Ears.
"Whilst outside the main entrance to the ground, Phil Neal and Graeme
Souness flagged Frank down and offered him entrance to the players' party at
the Moulin Rouge and promised that he wouldn't have to put his hands in his pockets
generous offer, me dad thanked them for winning the cup, and told them both
that nothing could buy the loyalty of his friend and that it was all right
telling a few people in a dressing room the score.
tried telling the whole of the docks himself!"
Paul Brannon: "To
my, and everyone else's utter astonishment, Souness recognised me and said,
'Alright Paul? Did you enjoy that tonight?'
"I was almost too staggered to coolly blurt out, 'Yeah,
great Souey. You did us proud there. Congratulate the boys for us will ya?' But
I wanted to say so, so much more.
"I could see the drunken mass advancing on him wanting autographs
and some cheeky git would have asked for his shirt or something so I waved him
goodbye and reminded the lads we had a train to catch. The lads who could speak
slapped his and Alan Hansen's backs and thanked them for their immense
achievements that fabulous night."
However the European Cup did not go directly to Anfield
trophy cabinet as Phil Thompson had other ideas.
"The weirdest thing was when we got back to Liverpool
and the European Cup ended up in The Falcon, my Sunday team's local in Kirkby.
Peter Robinson told me that, as captain, I was in charge of it and should take
care of it, even if it meant taking it home.
"Did I need telling twice when it's the European Cup?
I'd got it in this big red velvet bag and put it in the back of my Capri and
off I went to the Falcon. It's a bloody massive thing and it ended up taking
pride of place behind the bar. Word soon spread that the European Cup was in
The Falcon and hundreds of people started rolling up to have their photo taken
with it. It was quite an incredible sight to see."
Liverpool had reclaimed the Holy Grail of European football
from rivals Nottingham Forest who, like the Reds in 1977 and 1978, had won the
trophy back-to-back. The following year Aston Villa would take the crown during
six years of English dominance in the continent's premier club competition.