I’VE lost count of how many Merseyside derbies I’ve attended over the years. When the memories come flooding back, of course there are the victorious cup finals and semi-finals and a seemingly endless catalogue of Liverpool glory but one date always sticks in the mind – November 6, 1982.
Liverpool went into the game at Goodison Park as reigning champions and top of Division One, while Everton sat smack bang in the middle of the table in 11th place. Derby matches though, even during the Reds’ glory years, were invariably close-fought, hectic affairs and the old adage that the form book goes out of the window when the old foes met still rang true.
The Blues, just a year into Howard Kendall’s management, were a far cry from the Everton of old. References to the Mersey Millionaires, the School of Science, and the Holy Trinity (a fabled midfield unit of Kendall himself, Colin Harvey, and England World Cup Winner, Alan Ball) belonged to a bygone era. Harry Catterick’s team – Champions in 1963 and 1970 – had gone toe-to-toe with Bill Shankly’s Liverpool, but after Everton woes under Billy Bingham and Gordon Lee these were lean times.
Kendall’s debut season as manager had seen average league attendances at Goodison drop to 19,000 as Evertonians accepted their fate, a decline more keenly felt for Liverpool’s domestic and European dominance. If there was obvious parity in the 60s, the clubs now stood on different footings and fans of both clubs knew it. Rather than bitterness, acquiescence was the pervading Evertonian emotion.
Derby day, however, offered an opportunity for the Blues to put one over the increasingly boisterous neighbour. An expectant crowd of 52,741 packed into Goodison, the majority hoping for some brief respite from the now familiar sickly crowing of Kopites.
Liverpool fans, for their part, swarmed across Stanley Park and filled the Park End Stand and its poky, shallow terrace below. At the same end of the ground, thousands more crammed into the touchline standing areas of the Paddock and the enclosure in front of the Bullens Road and Main Stands respectively. With terracing on all sides and red enclaves merging jarringly into blue near the halfway line, this wasn’t quite conducive to the oft-reported harmony of the ‘Friendly Derby’.
Until the advent of all-seater stadiums the mix and merge of supporters at derbies was largely un-policed, making for a potent and not always cordial brew in the crowd. The view from the pitchside enclosure – near the front almost subterranean – was appalling. Teenage Achilles tendons were at full stretch for 90 minutes and necks craned to sneak a glimpse of the action; the camber of the pitch often rendering distant heroes legless.
Chants from both sides merged into a cacophony; the teams theatrically entering the fray in turn to the jeers and shrill whistles of one end the simultaneous raucous acclaim of the other. If conditions for fans were cramped so too was the space afforded to Bob Paisley, Ronnie Moran and Joe Fagan squeezed inside the tight, Perspex Goodison dug-outs directly in front of spectators’ prying eyes.
The match kicked off in blustery conditions at a typically furious pace with an energetic Everton trying to unsettle Liverpool. The Reds survived an early claim for a penalty when Graeme Souness intercepted the bounce of a cross with the upper reaches of his thigh and soon afterwards Billy Wright – the Blues’ plump, Liverpool-born skipper – headed over from a free-kick on the right.
Amid the hurry-scurry of the opening exchanges, Alan Hansen emerged to stamp a moment of rare class on proceedings. Anticipating brilliantly, he stepped in front of former Red, David Johnson to intercept and skip away from a lunge from Steve McMahon (still at the time a rabid Blue) inside the centre circle. With his momentum and loping stride carrying him forward effortlessly, Hansen spotted the run of the predatory Ian Rush to his left and supplied a perfectly weighted diagonal pass into his path. Rush’s unerring side-foot underneath Neville Southall rippled a Gwladys Street net already billowed by the wind.
If the lanky Scot wasn’t always the provider, it seemed the unparalleled Rush idled away decades applying a precise slide-rule to the angled through-ball. Were it not for the extra syllables, the trademark Liverpool move might have spawned the chant “trigonometry in action”.
Liverpool’s 11th minute opener only added to a thirst to go for Everton’s throat. Within minutes Rush, running in behind the Blues’ backline but this time on the right, crashed a shot against the angle of post and bar from a long Sammy Lee pass. Then, when the hapless Wright sliced a wild vertical clearance, Kenny Dalglish’s cushioned header towards goal from the dropping ball was parried instinctively by Southall.
Dalglish – fired by his duet with Rush at the age of 31 – was something of a renaissance man in the autumn of his career. His form suddenly evoked memories of his first Liverpool seasons and a renewed lust for the scoresheet. The peerless Scot would end up an undisputed Player of the Year among his fellow professionals and the football writers.
When Alan Kennedy, marauding down the left flank, swung in a cross, Dalglish, on the penalty spot, stooped brilliantly to head home for an apparent 2-0 lead. Everton’s left-back; John Bailey protested vehemently that an offside flag had been raised in the build-up. Referee Derek Civil awarded the goal before being press-ganged into consultation with his linesman and reversed his decision. Dalglish, livid that his best-ever headed goal had been ruled out; sprinted 30 yards to give verbals to the referee that were clearly less than civil.
An incensed Dalglish sought immediate revenge. When Hansen pinged a clearance, once again behind a criminally high defensive line, the maestro – although never blessed with lightning pace – burst past Glen Keeley. Keeley, drafted in on loan from Blackburn and making his debut, was left with no alternative but to pull Dalglish back by the shirt and for the astute Dalglish to appeal, arms outstretched and eyes ablaze.
The newly introduced law warranting a dismissal for denying a goalscoring opportunity saw Keeley sent-off with a minimum of fuss. The ref made a quick note of a number four in his notebook and pointed apologetically to the stands without recourse to anything as dramatic as a red card. The defender disappeared down the tunnel never to be seen again; an Everton career confined to 37 minutes of football.
From the resultant free-kick, after a short melee, Lee – at his Liverpool peak here – slammed a volley against the crossbar. A shell-shocked Southall was forced to save again from Dalglish, and from a Mark Lawrenson header, before Everton were afforded the luxury of a half-time breather. In the face on such an onslaught, the Blues cherished a single goal deficit.
If the first half promised a mauling, the second delivered as Liverpool now attacked the Park End. Another Hansen waltz into enemy territory found Rush 30 yards from goal. A swing of his trusty left foot and a slight deflection saw the ball corkscrew into the bottom corner of Southall’s net. This time the celebrations were more muted but lips were licked at the prospect of another 40 minutes against 10 despondent Everton men.
Dalglish was at the game’s epicentre for the next few minutes; spiteful and sublime in equal measure. A sweeping move started with Lawrenson’s surge through midfield and pass out wide to Rush. Rush contrived to wrap his left foot around the ball and spin a looping cross to the far post. The onrushing Dalglish’s bullet header was kept out by a miraculous Southall save.
Perhaps frustrated, Dalglish then lost the ball in midfield and aimed a wild kick at Kevin Sheedy, somehow escaping without a booking. Bailey sought retribution and slid into Kenny, only for Dalglish to respond with a disguised stamp on the full-back’s thigh. A further altercation followed with the enraged Blues’ captain Wright but with Dalglish still alive to the play. Feigning disinterest, he wandered forward, collected a quick throw-in from Phil Neal and crossed low for Lawrenson to slide the ball home at the far post sending the Reds into raptures.
Lawrenson, the most cultured of defenders, but operating here with aplomb in midfield alongside Souness was at his rampaging best as Liverpool led the Everton rearguard a merry dance.
As night fell, the Blues seemed ever more penned in by the dark and a baying Liverpool mob around three sides of the Park End.
With 20 minutes left, Lawrenson again picked up possession inside the Liverpool half and fed Dalglish on halfway. He immediately freed Rush for an unchallenged run on goal. Southall managed to lay a glove on his left-foot shot and deflect the ball onto the post but was powerless to stop Rush’s emphatic volley from the rebound.
Not content with a first hat-trick in a league derby since 1935, Rush delivered the coup de grace in the 85th minute. This time Lee, heaving through the middle, released the striker to gallop round Southall and convert with ease on his right foot. The sheer speed of Rush, the timing of his runs, and his comfort on either side was encapsulated in a fifth goal of absolute simplicity.
By this time, thousands of resigned Evertonians had trudged their way to the exits. The exultant Liverpool songs reverberated around Goodison as pockets of red dotted around the stadium joined in with the hordes at one end. This was Bob Paisley’s Reds, on and off the field, in the midst of their halcyon days.
A flag waved behind the goal summed up proceedings: “Liverpool Reign Supreme.”
And the words of Match the Day commentator, John Motson still resonate to this day: “Four for Rush, five for Liverpool and an awful day for Everton.”
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