The 10 biggest matches Anfield has ever seen

With Anfield set to host a huge Premier League title showdown against Manchester City on Sunday, Jim Boardman lists some of the very biggest fixtures the famous stadium has ever seen...

1. The hectic title tilt

Monday 17 April 1922. 3:15pm
Liverpool 2-1 Burnley
Football League Division One
Attendance: 50,000

As this Easter Monday fixture kicked off, three sides were in contention for the league title – and two of them were meeting here.

These two had only played the reverse fixture three days earlier on the Good Friday of a hectic bank holiday weekend. A 1-1 draw was the result, the day before 50,000 fans went to Anfield to see the Reds demolish Cardiff City 5-1. The place was packed again for the Reds' third game in four days, with the faithful hoping to see Liverpool clinch their third league title.

Victory for Liverpool would end their Lancashire rivals’ hopes and leave second-placed Tottenham’s hanging by a thread. As it turned out, Spurs lost, so this 2-1 win – with goals from Harry Chambers and Dick Forshaw – meant Liverpool were crowned champions.

2. The promotion battle

Saturday 21 April 1962. 3pm
Liverpool 2-0 Southampton
Football League Division Two
Attendance: 40,410

Forty years later, Liverpool had won the league twice more but were now playing their football in the Second Division. With five games to go, one point would guarantee promotion and end an eight-year exile from the top flight.

The weather took its toll on the attendance – still impressive for a Second Division game – and on the pitch. The conditions didn’t help the Liverpool defence either, but despite a few moments of panic they held firm and the Reds kept a clean sheet.

With Ian St John suspended, Kevin Lewis had been called into the side and it was his two goals that saw Liverpool promoted as champions, setting them on their way to what became a long period of dominance in the English game. After the game Bill Shankly spoke over the public address system to tell supporters that this had been the happiest day of his football life. The rest of his words were drowned out by jubilant fans.

3. Shankly's first title

Saturday 18 April 1964. 3pm
Liverpool 5-0 Arsenal
Football League Division One
Attendance: 48,623

The gates were locked an hour before kick-off for what was Liverpool’s last home game of the season. Just two years after promotion, the Reds were on the verge of winning the league and nobody wanted to miss it.

Ian St John opened the scoring after seven minutes, but Liverpool endured a period of Arsenal pressure that almost saw them equalise. Big Ron Yeats conceded a penalty for handball after half an hour – but Tommy Lawrence saved it. With half-time approaching, Alf Arrowsmith made it 2-0 and the Reds were now in control.

The second half turned into a party, a brace from Peter Thompson putting Liverpool four goals in front before Roger Hunt made it five from distance. There was even time for Ian Callaghan to miss a penalty that would have made it 6-0.

Bill Shankly led the players onto the pitch afterwards to what The Liverpool Echo described as “a rapturous reception from the terraces, and a standing ovation from everyone in the stands”. The report continued: “The roar when they ran in front of the Kop increased by 50 per cent. I don't think I have ever seen such an Anfield scene. It almost baffled description by its warmth and intensity.”

4. A brief taste of European glory

Tuesday 4 May 1965. 7:30pm
Liverpool 3-1 Inter Milan
European Cup semi-final first leg
Attendance: 54,082

That first league title in 17 years had qualified Liverpool for the following season’s European Cup, a competition yet to be won by a British side. A good campaign saw them drawn against Italy’s mighty Internazionale in the semi-final, with the first leg played at Anfield just three days after the FA Cup triumph against Leeds at Wembley.

The Kop was full an hour before kick-off, and Shankly waited until the Italians were on the pitch before sending out two of his injured players to parade Saturday’s prize in front of the famous terrace: “Dear God, what an eruption there was when our supporters caught sight of that cup,” he said later. “The noise was unbelievable.”

The Reds were in front inside just four minutes thanks to Roger Hunt, but six minutes later Alessandro Mazzola equalised for the visitors with what proved to be a vital goal. Ian Callaghan restored Liverpool’s lead ten minutes before half-time, with a Chris Lawler effort ruled out five minutes later. Ian St John completed the scoring 15 minutes from time. Liverpool were tantalisingly close to becoming the first British side to reach the European Cup Final.

In the end it wasn’t to be, after Inter won the second leg 3-0 a week later in what can only be described as controversial circumstances. The Reds would wait 12 years to finally lift that famous oversized trophy.

5. European reward at last

Thursday 10 May 1973. 7:30pm​
Liverpool 3-0 Borussia Moenchengladbach​
UEFA Cup Final first leg​
Attendance: 41,169

Fresh from winning their eighth league title, Liverpool were now in the final of the UEFA Cup. At that time the final was played the same way as the preceding rounds – over two legs, home and away – and the first leg was at Anfield.

John Toshack – back in the side after two months out – set up the Reds’ first two goals for Kevin Keegan, who also missed a penalty in between. Larry Lloyd rose unmarked to get Liverpool’s third from a Keegan corner, before the German side were awarded a penalty. Jupp Heynckes could only look on in despair as Ray Clemence dived full length to save to his right.

In the second leg two weeks later, Heynckes almost made up for that miss by scoring twice as Moenchengladbach beat Liverpool 2-0. It wasn’t enough, though, and the 3-2 aggregate score meant Liverpool had won the UEFA Cup.


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