On this day 127 years ago, Liverpool would taste defeat for the first-ever time in the Football League after what was an impressive beginning for the club.
The year was 1894 and the club was still very much in its infancy, and blue and white remained the colours for a team referred to as ‘The Anfielders’.
It’s an unthinkable colour palette in modern-day, but with no money left to buy a kit after John Houlding forged his own path away from Everton, it would remain in place for four seasons.
That included the club’s start in the football league in 1893/94 after having had to compete in the Lancashire League in their debut season, which they ultimately won and subsequently were elected to take their place in the Second Division.
Their maiden official league game coincided with Liverpool’s first-ever victory, against Middlesbrough Ironopolis on September 2 1893, where the scoreboard would read 2-0 at the end of the match.
It was the first of 22 victories recorded in the 1893/94 campaign, with six draws then making up the unbeaten 28-game season that saw Houlding’s men sit eight points clear atop of the table.
The impressive run of results did not secure automatic promotion, however, as a test match system was in place that saw the top of the Second Division playoff against the bottom-placed team from the First Division.
In this case, it was Newton Heath and after 28 games without tasting defeat, Liverpool’s run was extended thanks to goals from Patrick Gordon and Harry Bradshaw.
It would see Liverpool secure a place in the top-flight for the first time in the club’s history, just two seasons after the club was formed in 1892.
A host of new faces would be added to the fold to consolidate Liverpool’s place in the First Division, including Jimmy Ross who joined for £75 from Preston and would go on to score 37 goals in 73 games.
But neither his nor Bradshaw’s combined league goal tally of 29 would be enough to see the club’s unbeaten streak continue for too long, with the club handed a valuable lesson in their First Division season debut.
After starting the campaign with two draws, against Blackburn and Burnley, the visit of the reigning champions Aston Villa on September 8, 1894, would see Liverpool’s 30-game unbeaten streak in the football league come to a heartbreaking end.
William Edward Barclay’s side were greeted by 20,000 fans at Anfield, a crowd that was in fine voice as they eagerly awaited seeing their team in the First Division for the first time.
It was a nervy start for the Anfielders but Bradshaw would find the settler after just 20 minutes with a strike that was described by the press as “magnificent,” but despite a flurry of chances, the net would not ripple again.
It would only do so for Aston Villa with two goals arriving in the final 15 minutes as Liverpool “fell to pieces,” which was “a most unusual habit for them” after having averaged 0.81 goals conceded per game in the Second Division.
This was the club’s first defeat in 31 football league games, and a further 14 would follow to cement their place at the bottom of the table, where they would go on to lose the test match playoff to Bury.
A return to the Second Division would await for the club, but they would quickly recover and in the space of just 11 years, Liverpool would already have two league titles to their name.
That defeat against Villa could be considered a watershed moment for the club, a harsh lesson from those at the top that would stand the Anfielders in good stead as they clawed their way back up the table.
Remarkably, the 30-game unbeaten streak that kickstarted the club’s time in the football league was Liverpool’s longest run until 1987, when the Reds went 31 without defeat in the First Division across the 1986/87 and 1987/88 seasons.
A league streak 93 years in the making.