Video of the Day: Everton vs Liverpool, January 1981
There’s nothing quite like a local derby, and there’s especially nothing quite like a local derby when one is pulled from the velvet bags in the FA Cup. Unlike the league, this is sudden death, where one of the two teams concerned will end its involvement either that day or after a replay. There are no opportunities to avenge a cup defeat for that particular season, at least. And where the balance of power between two local rivals isn’t quite even, that can be particularly useful for the underdogs in that particular equation.
Everton had started the 1970s in the ascendancy in so far as the Merseyside rivalry was concerned, winning the Football League First Division title in 1970. By the end of the decade, though, their supporters might have been forgiven for feeling a little shell-shocked by the rise of Liverpool, who had won the First Division championship in 1973, 1976, 1977, 1979 and 1980, and had thrown in a couple of European Cups – in 1977 and 1978 – into the bargain. Over the remainder of the rest of the decade, meanwhile, Everton could only muster one League Cup final appearance, in which they were beaten after two replays by Aston Villa in 1977, whilst the 1980s began with the club finishing the 1979/80 season just one place and four points above the relegation places.
At least over the course of the 1980/81 season, Everton supporters had the consolation of knowing that Liverpool’s First Division title defence was looking weak, and when the two sides were drawn to play each other in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup on the penultimate Saturday of January in 1981 they also knew that, somehow or other, this particular competition had acted as something of an Achilles heel for their otherwise all-conquering local rivals. In 1981, Liverpool had only won the FA Cup on two previous occasions, in 1965 and 1974. Despite form which had been poor going into the match – with three defeats and a draw from the four matches going into this fixture – Everton had slight cause for optimism, going into this match.
This particular Merseyside derby turned out to continue Liverpool’s FA Cup curse for a further season, but the red half of the city would finish this season by winning the European Cup for a third time in five seasons, even though a fifth place finish in the league would be something of a disappointment by the standards of the time. Everton, meanwhile, would go on to reach the quarter-finals of the competition before losing after a replay to Manchester City. In the league, meanwhile, their form continued to slump. The team would pick up just eight league points between this match and the end of the season – a poor return, even under the old two points for a win system – and would go on to finish the 1980/81 season in fifteenth place in the table. Commentary at Goodison Park comes from Gerald Sinstadt.
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