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The 10 biggest matches Anfield 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.

6. Enter Supersub

Wednesday 16 March 1977. 7:30pm​
Liverpool 3-1 Saint-Étienne​
European Cup third round, second leg​
Attendance: 55,043

Bob Paisley’s side were a goal down after defeat in France, but like the full house at Anfield – reports at the time said 10,000 fans were locked out – they weren’t ready to concede defeat in the tie. Within two minutes Kevin Keegan had opened the scoring and it was all square on aggregate.

Then, six minutes into the second half, Saint-Étienne equalised on the night, not only putting them 2-1 ahead on aggregate but giving them a vital away goal. Liverpool were out unless they scored two more goals of their own.

Just before the hour mark Ray Kennedy got one back for Liverpool – 2-2 on the night but the Reds still on their way out because of that French away goal.

With a little over 15 minutes left Bob Paisley brought on a sub, 20-year-old David Fairclough, who scored Liverpool’s third, sending them through to the semi-finals and on their way to winning their first European Cup in Rome.

7. An international grudge match

Wednesday 12 October 1977, 7:30pm​
Wales 0-2 Scotland​
World Cup qualifier​
Attendance: 50,850

John Toshack, Joey Jones and Kenny Dalglish all took part, but this wasn’t a Liverpool match. The Welsh FA had been expected to name Wrexham as the venue for this World Cup qualifier but with money on their minds chose instead to stage it across the border at Liverpool’s much larger stadium.

Anfield was packed, but as Welsh keeper Dai Davies later recalled, it felt nothing like a home game: “As we came onto the pitch, we had a massive shock as we saw blue everywhere. We knew there would be a great deal of Scots coming down, but we were expecting to see more red in the stadium.”

The game lived up to its billing, but it wasn’t until 78 minutes that the deadlock was broken – controversially. The referee spotted a handball from Wales’s David Jones and awarded Scotland a penalty. Replays showed it was actually Scottish striker Joe Jordan who’d handled it. 

Don Masson scored the penalty, and with Kenny Dalglish tying it up three minutes from the end it was Scotland who were on their way to Argentina.

8. Lost in the Forest... again

Tuesday 12 February 1980. 7:30pm​
Liverpool 1-1 Nottingham Forest​
League Cup semi-final second leg​
Attendance: 50,880

Nottingham Forest had become something of a thorn in Liverpool’s side in the preceding couple of years, winning the League Championship and the European Cup as well as beating them in this competition’s final two years earlier in an Old Trafford replay. 

Forest were a goal up from the first leg, but over 50,000 still turned up at Anfield hoping to see the curse finally broken in one of the few competitions the Reds had never won. Within 24 minutes it wasn’t looking likely, as John Robertson put away a penalty and left Liverpool trailing by two goals in the tie.

David Fairclough had just scored a hat-trick in the league but was once again on the bench for this match, only coming on after an hour. He did pull one back for the Reds, six minutes from time, but it was too little too late and Paisley’s side were out.

A year later Liverpool won the competition for the first of four seasons in a row.

9. "It's up for grabs now..."

Friday 26 May 1989. 8:05pm​
Liverpool 0-2 Arsenal​
Football League First Division​
Attendance: 41,718

On a night most memorable for Arsenal fans because it gave them the league title against many people’s expectations, the goal that gave it to them came right at the end of the match. It was the final game of the season, played on a Friday night in front of ITV’s live cameras, and the outcome was guaranteed to clinch the title for one or other of the two sides involved.

Level on points, but four behind on goal difference, for Arsenal to win the league they had to beat Liverpool by a margin of at least two goals. At Anfield. Anything short of that and Liverpool would be picking up their 18th title, and another League and Cup double would be sealed for Kenny Dalglish.

Liverpool might have done better to go out for the win, but instead they went out to avoid defeat by two goals. It was working too, just about, at 1-0 down going into stoppage time, until a fortuitous break from Michael Thomas and a cool finish put his name in Arsenal folklore with the goal that gave the Gunners the title on goals scored. 

For Liverpool fans, however, the hurt of losing this game was nothing compared to the trauma of what had taken place the month before at Hillsborough.

10. Ghost goal gives Mourinho a chill

Tuesday 3 May 2005. 7:45pm​
Liverpool 1-0 Chelsea​
Champions League semi-final second leg​
Attendance: 42,529

Jose Mourinho and Rafa Benítez were in their first seasons in England and Mourinho had already had one success in beating Liverpool in the League Cup final, famously “shushing” Liverpool fans in the process. 

A far bigger prize was on offer now though: a place in the Champions League final. The first leg ended goalless, so Chelsea needed a win or any scoring draw to go through.

When people talk about the Kop being a twelfth man it’s because of nights like this, of which there had been more than one this particular season. Luis Garcia’s early goal – the did-it-cross-the-line one often referred to as a “ghost goal” – meant Liverpool had the advantage, but only by the most slender of margins. One strike in reply would have been enough to see Chelsea take the tie, and more than once they came close.

Not close enough, though, and after just one season in charge Rafa Benítez was taking Liverpool to their first European Cup Final in 20 years, with the help of the thousands of fans in the ground who stood throughout.