It is exactly 19 years since Liverpool picked up all three points away to Leeds United, on a day that marked a reunion with Reds legend Ian Rush.
Leeds United 0-2 Liverpool
16th November 1996
Following a strong start to their 1996/97 Premier League campaign, Roy Evans’ Liverpool side had endured a disappointing few weeks in the lead-up to their trip to Elland Road.
A 1-0 defeat to bitter rivals Man United, in which a young David Beckham scored the game’s only goal, was followed by a 3-0 loss to Blackburn Rovers in their next away outing.
Evans’ team were often criticised for being weak mentally- something that many feel was the one main difference between the Reds and United throughout the 1990s- and all eyes were on how they would respond against Leeds.
Much of the pre-game talk was about Rush’s first match against Liverpool since leaving a few months earlier.
The Welshman had achieved incredible things during two spells at Anfield, with his astonishing tally of 346 goals still making him far and away the club’s leading goalscorer of all time.
It was not to be a happy afternoon for the legendary striker, though.
Reds back on track
George Graham’s Leeds side had already lost seven league matches by the time Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman and Co. came to town, and they were about to be defeated once more.
Liverpool made the perfect start, with Neil Ruddock giving the Merseysiders a 13th-minute lead, after the hosts had failed to clear a Stig Inge Bjornebye corner.
It was a rare goal for the divisive centre-back, but one that got his side back on track after a rocky run of results.
The Reds dominated the match from start to finish, and only an inspired performance by goalkeeper Nigel Martyn kept Leeds in the game. [td_ad_box spot_id=”custom_ad_1″]
Ruddock and John Barnes were both denied by the former England international, while Rush’s only moment of note in the game was picking up a second-half booking. It was clear to see that his best days were very much behind him.
Despite Liverpool’s dominance, they didn’t put the game to bed until stoppage time, with McManaman rolling the ball into an empty after a rare misjudgement by Martyn.
It was a big victory for the Reds, whose title dream was given fresh impetus.
Goals: Ruddock (13), McManaman (90)
Liverpool: James, Wright, Ruddock, Matteo, McAteer, Bjornebye, Redknapp, Barnes, Thomas, McManaman, Fowler.
Subs not used: Warner, Babb, Kennedy, Collymore, Berger.
Leeds United starting XI: Martyn, Kelly, Radebe, Palmer, Beesley, Sharpe, Ford, Bowyer, Wallace, Rush, Deane.
What happened next?
Although victory did steady the ship, Liverpool didn’t exactly set the world alight following their Elland Road triumph.
They only won one of their next four league games, with a 1-0 home loss to Sheffield Wednesday a particularly disappointing result.
The Reds had to settle for fourth place in the end, despite remaining in the title race until fairly late in the season.
A 2-1 defeat at Wimbledon officially ended their hopes, although a debut goal from 17-year-old Michael Owen did at least bring something positive out of the result. [td_ad_box spot_id=”custom_ad_2″]
Liverpool finished level on points with both Newcastle (2nd) and Arsenal (3rd) but an inferior goal difference ultimately worked against them.
It was the ruthless United who prevailed once more, winning the league by a resounding seven points.
Too many sloppy results had proved to be Liverpool’s downfall, although the 4-3 win against Newcastle in March 1997 was one of the great Premier League matches.
Evans was eventually replaced by Gerard Houllier in late 1998, following a short-lived joint reign between the pair, and it signalled a new era at Anfield.
Evans was very much the last of the Boot Room boys.
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