Video of the Day: Liverpool vs AZ Alkmaar, November 1981
We pull their legs and mock them at times, but on nights like last night Liverpool have a way of taking your breath away. Their narrow win over Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League last night was one that ranked with any as one of the great European nights that Anfield has ever seen. Detractors will point out that this particular night did emphatically not come in the Champions League, but there’s definitely a case for saying that the tortuous journey that a team has to make to win this competition is far more arduous than any journey that a club might have to make prior to the expansion of European club football.
In 1981, Liverpool were the champions of Europe, which was a blessed relief to the club because it had only finished the 1980/81 First Division season in sixth place in the table and qualified for the 1981/82 European Cup as holders only. They started their run in the competition against OPS of Finland, and in the Second Round of the competition were drawn to play the Dutch champions, AZ Alkmaar (or Alkmaar Zaanstreek, to give them their proper name). The first leg finished two-all, and both of Liverpool’s goalscorers in that match, Sammy Lee and David Johnson, were missing for the return match at Anfield, with a place in the quarter-finals at stake. Youngsters Ronnie Whelan and Ian Rush replaced them.
Despite the result of this tie, Liverpool were knocked out of the competition by CSKA Sofia after extra-time in the next round. The English champions Aston Villa, a club that doesn’t seem likely to have any eventful nights in Europe in the foreseeable future, won the competition that year and Liverpool would get back to winning ways in Europe two seasons later in Rome against AS Roma. Commentary for this match, meanwhile, comes from Martin Tyler.
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