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There is a long and healthy tradition of respect
and fierce rivalry linking Liverpool and Leeds United; it dates
back to the days when Bill Shankly and Don
Revie revived the fortunes of the two clubs and led them from
the wilderness of Second Division football to the top of the European
Shankly took Liverpool to the Second Division title
in 1962 and saw them add the League championship in 1964, the
year that Leeds were crowned Division Two champions. The two
clubs met at Wembley in the 1965 FA Cup
final, won after extra time by the Merseysiders, and from
that point on the pair were constantly vying for the game's honours.
United confirmed their status
as League champions with a goalless draw between the two at Anfield
in April 1969; from that point the Reds had been in transition.
Bill Shankly blooded a host of exciting youngsters, many of them
snapped up for a pittance from the lower divisions: Ray Clemence,
Alec Lindsay, Larry Lloyd, Emlyn Hughes, Steve Heighway, John
Toshack, Alun Evans and Brian Hall had transformed the look of
the first team as they replaced regulars like Tommy Lawrence,
Geoff Strong, Gerry Byrne, Willie Stevenson, Gordon Milne, Ron
Yeats, Roger Hunt and Ian St John.
By contrast, of the Leeds team that played in the
1965 Cup final, Sprake, Reaney, Bremner, Charlton, Hunter and
Giles were still regular first teamers, and most of their newcomers
had come through the youth ranks at Elland Road, though Allan
Clarke and Mick Jones were big money imports.
The two northern giants were drawn to meet each
other at the semi final stage of the European Fairs Cup competition
in 1971, guaranteeing England at least one berth in the final
of the tournament, its final staging before reconstitution as
the UEFA Cup the following season.
It was a mouth watering pairing and both Revie and
Shankly declared their satisfaction with the draw. For both clubs,
the Fairs Cup represented one part of a potential double: Leeds
were racing neck and neck with Arsenal in their perennial pursuit
of the League championship, while Liverpool would face those selfsame
Gunners in the FA Cup final at Wembley.
Peter Lorimer was unavailable for selection after
injuring a hamstring in the weekend's draw at Huddersfield, but
Revie had the significant consolation of being able to recall
skipper Billy Bremner for his first appearance since 23 February.
For the Scot, the season had been one long injury nightmare.
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Bremner had managed only 25 minutes' first team
football in three months. He had struggled through the autumn
with damaged knee ligaments, then suffered an ankle injury against
Rotherham in early January before sustaining a hairline fracture
in his left leg when making his comeback.
It was clearly a gamble to recall the Scot for such
a vital match, but Revie would always select a barely fit Bremner
ahead of many other players who were 100%; the captain was a totem
for United and had a track record of snatching decisive goals
in big games. As Don Warters wrote in the Evening Post, "Leeds
have managed quite well without Bremner over the past months but
there is no doubt that the Scot's presence is a psychological
boost for the side."
In reaching the semi final stage, Leeds had strolled
past Sarpsborg and Sparta Prague, though Dynamo Dresden (beaten
on away goals) and Vitoria Setubal proved more durable. For their
part, Liverpool had edged past Ferencvaros, before facing easier
hurdles in Dinamo Bucharest, Hibernian and Bayern Munich. But
for both teams, this was the acid test, a winners take all tussle
that would test the victors to the limit.
United were considered marginal favourites, despite
going into the game on a run of just one victory in five games.
The challenge of a visit to Anfield for the first leg, however,
was a stern one. When Leeds won 1-0 on Merseyside in December
1965 it was the club's first victory at the ground since 1932,
while Paul Madeley's goal in the 1-1 draw in December 1970 was
the first scored by a United player at Anfield in five years.
Bremner's first action of the night turned out well:
he won the toss and decided to defend the Kop end in the first
half, a tactical gamble designed to undermine any second half
surge from the Reds.
Liverpool were undefeated at home all season and
keen on maintaining that record; they enjoyed the better of the
Tom German in the Times: "At the start Leeds looked
uncertain and Heighway and Hall, sharp and searching, led the
quest for a quick breakthrough. Little more than an astute hook
was yielded by Lloyd, which sailed only a foot or so wide, and
a header by Heighway which Sprake was safely positioned to collect.
Perhaps Leeds decided that Liverpool's fangs were less fearsome
than they looked; at any rate, the Yorkshiremen began to move
the ball around with growing confidence and Bremner found his
sea legs, so to speak, and Cooper and Giles began to thread their
"Suddenly it was a real contest and Leeds were the
ones who appeared the more likely to shape it. Madeley almost
did as Giles and Bremner struck up that old understanding to open
the way for Madeley whose shot was turned over the bar superbly
by Clemence's upstretched arm."
Bremner had appeared in a friendly against Bradford
24 hours earlier in a bid to prove his fitness, and understandably
he took a while to get going. But after he had found the pace
of the game he made a decent contribution.
Despite Liverpool's early dominance, it was 17 minutes
before they were able to create an opening, Evans failing to get
his head to a fine centre from Ian Callaghan.
United responded instantly, with Clarke putting
the ball past Clemence, though the effort was chalked off for
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Goalkeeper Sprake injured his back early in the
game and was handicapped considerably thereafter, but he defied
his pain to show good form, making fine saves from Lawler, Lindsay
and Highway as battle was joined in earnest.
Leeds, though, rose to meet the challenge and after
25 minutes were unlucky not to take the lead. Bremner got possession
after a long drive from Giles and fed Madeley. Clemence did well
to save his shot.
It was nip and tuck from then on, with United playing
mostly on the break, but they looked solid and steady at the back
with the rearguard in fine form. There was still no goal and not
much sign of a breakthrough by the time the game reached the break.
It looked like Shankly had given the Liverpool players
a real flea in the ear during the interval for they went at Leeds
with renewed vigour after the resumption. Alun Evans fluffed the
chance of the night when Toshack's quick centre left him unmarked
five yards from goal. Incredibly, he could only find the upright
as the opportunity went begging.
Leeds were more calculating with their openings.
After 67 minutes it was they who opened the scoring. Bremner,
who had played in an advanced role throughout the contest, drew
a foul wide on the right and was waiting in the area when Giles
fired the free kick into the area. It bypassed all the Liverpool
men and sailed invitingly toward Bremner, who leapt to nod it
home with a flick of his red head, hushing the passionate home
Bremner's joyous colleagues raced to congratulate
their restored leader. Barry Foster in the Yorkshire Post: "The
feelings of the whole Leeds side were epitomised by Charlton who
ran 30 yards with his hands waving joyfully in the air to pick
up and congratulate his captain."
It was the 100th goal scored by Leeds in the campaign
and, fittingly enough, it came in United's 50th Fairs Cup-tie;
that landmark had been reached in just five seasons' worth of
competition, an astonishing tribute to their consistency in the
The goal was the signal for Liverpool to throw themselves
into all out attack. They brought on Graham and Thompson for Callaghan
and Evans, pepping up their forward line, and penned United back
in their area. Sprake preserved the lead with a wonderful save
after seventy minutes from Toshack. Then Hunter cleared a Lloyd
his goal line.
Liverpool continued to press for an equaliser and
might well have manufactured it if they had been cooler in front
Heighway put Hughes through but he got the ball
tangled up between his feet and Sprake combined with Jack
Charlton to snuff out the danger.
Eric Todd in the Guardian: "Leeds surely could not
have survived if it had not been for their superb defence. Cooper
was outstanding; if Charlton is finished, as some people imagine
he is, then I can only hope that I am half as effective when my
own time comes to retire, and Sprake, too, gave an adequate answer
to his critics who consider him to have left the top flight of
"Madeley was the best Leeds forward, but he had
little competition, so committed to defence were his colleagues.
Jones, who had not scored since Swindon Town were beaten at Elland
Road in the fourth round of the FA Challenge Cup, had another
abortive evening, against Lloyd, and Clarke and Giles also suffered
against a defence which lacked nothing of United's resolution.
But who needed an attack with a defence such as this?
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"Liverpool certainly were unlucky to find Leeds
in such a frame of mind. They harassed, they foraged and they
plotted as only they can, and against a lesser side they must
have had some reward. Toshack and Lindsay in particular had reason
to stare at Sprake in frank disbelief when he thwarted them, and
when Sprake did falter for the only time, Evans should have done
better than drive the ball against a post.
"Lindsay gets better every time I see him. Not only
in defence did he reveal his tremendous talents, but as a marksman
he showed his colleagues a thing or two. Smith as always was a
tireless driving force, but I doubt whether any team could have
beaten Leeds by conventional methods last night."
Don Warters in the Yorkshire Evening Post: "Victory
came at a time when people were beginning to doubt whether Revie's
men had the resilience and character to last out what has been
another exhausting season. Few people at Anfield gave United a
chance before the game and Liverpool supporters are among the
most knowledgeable in the game.
"A better way to hit back at the doubters than a
win at Anfield is difficult to imagine. Leeds are always at their
best when the chips are down and a draw last night would have
satisfied manager Don Revie.
"There was little doubt in my mind that United,
spite of Liverpool's hustle and bustle up front, deserved their
victory. They had the edge on Bill Shankly's jumping wonders which
made them the first team to win at Anfield in 12 months, ending
a 30 match unbeaten home sequence.
"It was Leeds at their commanding best with every
man playing his part. In defence, Hunter, Charlton and Cooper
were towering figures and Sprake, injured early on and hampered
for the rest of the game with back trouble, brought off several
splendid games, the best coming in the 70th minute to a header
"Giles, Madeley and Bates worked hard in midfield
for United and up front Clarke, Jones and Bremner never stopped
It was a triumph for Revie and his men: the gamble
of recalling Bremner paid handsome dividends and despite not being
at his best and lacking in match fitness, his presence was enough
to inspire his colleagues to one of their classic away performances.
It took him 20 minutes to come to terms with the pace of the game
but then he grew more and more influential. In the final verdict
it was as if he had never been away.
United denied their old rivals the victory they
needed so badly before a crowd of almost 53,000 fanatical fans,
but, as Bill Shankly grumbled afterwards, "If you miss chances
like we did you do not deserve to win."
Leeds were not yet through to the final, and would
be hard pressed to preserve their advantage in the second leg
at Elland Road. Nevertheless, they had taken a massive step towards
a third Fairs Cup final and in the process given themselves a
massive confidence boost for their League run in.
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