What factors should one take into consideration when debating Liverpool’s greatest ever home performance? Matt Sproston looks back on Liverpool v Spurs 1978.
The scoreline is a fairly obvious starting point although some would argue in favour of the two 1-0 Champions League semi-final wins over Chelsea. The quality of the opposition is definitely a factor. The importance of the game has to be taken into account as well. History and media reporting also plays a part. There were undoubtedly great performances that were pre television that don’t get the credit they deserve.
Anyway, take all of these factors into consideration and we are still none the wiser as ultimately, with a history as rich as ours, it is a personal choice. I suppose if there was a vote Inter 1965, Forest 1988, Real Madrid 2009 and the Chelsea games would be up there. In addition, the Division 1 game between Liverpool and Spurs on 2nd September 1978 is considered by many to be Liverpool’s greatest ever home performance.
The visitors travelled to Anfield in an optimistic mood which certainly flew in the face of any rational preview of the game. Liverpool were back to back European Champions and, although they had lost the league title to Forest the previous season, they were the pre-eminent force in English and European football. The Reds had played three and won three so far that season. Spurs had spent the previous year in Division 2 and had played four so far that season, drawing three and losing one. Furthermore, Spurs had not won at Anfield in 60 years.
Contrary to all reason, the London based newspaper media were still promoting Spurs as potential rivals to Liverpool for the title and talking up their chances of a win at Anfield. The reason for their optimism was based purely on the signings of Argentinian World Cup stars Osvaldo Ardiles and Ricardo Villa. Added to that, the emerging talent of Glenn Hoddle caused the Fleet Street hacks to drool at the prospect of the good times returning to White Hart Lane.
The game was played in glorious late summer sunshine and the football played by the Reds was even more dazzling. It was Spurs that started on the front foot and having made the home team kick towards the Kop they set about taking the game to Liverpool. However, after an early opportunity was denied by Clemence, Liverpool climbed off their sun loungers and got to work.
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On 10 minutes Jimmy Case powered through the midfield and his cross shot landed at the feet of Dalglish. The King twisted and sent the visitors’ defence the wrong way before firing home. Vintage Kenny!
[sws_pullquote_right] “That must be the best goal Anfield has ever seen” — Bob Paisley on Terry McDermott’s headed goal. [/sws_pullquote_right] Spurs were fortunate to remain with 11 men after Perryman chopped down Dalglish when clean through in what would have been a definite red card these days.
Dalglish doubled the advantage on 20 minutes nimbly turning in a Jimmy Case long shot.
The game was over by half time. Ray Kennedy met a McDermott cross at the far post and his header flicked in off a Spurs defender to send Liverpool in three nil up at half time.
The second half started as the first half ended. Liverpool swarmed forward and Spurs could not contain them. 3 minutes after the restart a sumptuous passing move ended with a Dalglish shot being blocked by the keeper. Substitute David Johnson fired in the rebound.
Ten minutes later it was Johnson again, finishing off another sublime Reds passing move following a magnificent Souness tackle. Tottenham simply looked bewildered by Liverpool’s pace of play, invention and passing accuracy.
Just after the hour Stevie Heighway was brought down in the box following a mazy run. It was a clear penalty but Neal’s low shot was superbly saved by Spurs’ keeper Daines. For reasons known only to him, the referee ordered a retake. This time Neal went high and was successful.
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The Reds saved the best until last, Terry McDermott scoring one of Anfield’s most iconic goals. Breaking quickly from a Spurs attack, Dalglish found Johnson on the halfway line. He turned and hit a long ball into the left wing which Heighway crossed first time on the run. Heighway’s cross was met at the back post by McDermott with an unstoppable header. It was a fitting way to cap an incredible performance.
Liverpool went on to win the title comfortably, amassing a record points tally under the 2 points for a win system and conceding only 16 goals in 42 games. Spurs recovered from this mauling to finish mid table.
Whether this was Liverpool’s greatest ever home performance is a matter of opinion. There have not been many better.
Liverpool XI: Clemence, Neal, Thompson, Hughes, A. Kennedy, Heighway, McDermott, Sounness, Case, Dalglish, R. Kennedy. Sub: Johnson.