Tag Archives: Liverpool FC

Iconic Moments: Fowler destroys the Arsenal back four (August 1994)

Robbie Fowler was already making a name for himself before Arsenal travelled to Anfield in August 1994. It was the first league match to be played at the famous ground since the famous standing terrace; The Spion Kop had been torn down due to the safety regulations demanded by The Taylor Report. The new all-seater Kop stand was still taking shape but the first seats were ready for this showpiece encounter. However, it was the other end of the ground where all the action took place.

In the 26th minute, Fowler powered the home side into the lead after the ball bounced off his strike partner Ian Rush invitingly into his path. Less than three minutes later, he’d doubled his tally for the afternoon. Steve McManaman made a 60-yard run and found Fowler who had made a run to the right-hand side, before drilling a shot beyond an unsighted David Seaman and into the back of the net.

Just part the half-hour, John Barnes clipped a ball over the top of the famous Arsenal back four and Fowler was away, leaving Tony Adams behind. Seaman blocked his first effort but Fowler was instinctive to this and got to the loose ball before the England goalkeeper and Martin Keown to complete his hat-trick from the most improbable of angles. He had just destroyed the Arsenal back four in four minutes and 33 seconds.

It was a Premier League record for the fastest hat-trick that stood for over 20 years and still remains one of the most remarkable moments in the league’s history. This was the day when 19-year-old Robbie Fowler became one of the hottest properties, not just in English but in world football.

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Seasonal Stories: Liverpool FC (1996-1997)

A missed opportunity

This was Roy Evans’ third full season as Liverpool FC manager and the pressure was increasing on him to bring back silverware to the Anfield trophy cabinet. Liverpool had an emerging young crop of players coming through along with a few experienced heads and in 1996-1997, they looked like a genuine title contender. They were five points clear going into the New Year.

However, too many dropped points against inferior sides, a series of goalkeeper blunders from David James and questions about the team’s mentality saw the challenge ebb away and on the final day, the Reds were squeezed into fourth place courtesy of goal difference. It definitely felt like a missed opportunity.

Squad: David James, Rob Jones, John Scales (Left in December 1996), Bjorn Tore Kvarme, Jason McAteer, Mark Wright, Phil Babb, Steve Harkness, Neil Ruddock, Stig Inge Bjornebye, Dominic Matteo, Jamie Carragher, Mark Kennedy, Michael Thomas, Jamie Redknapp, John Barnes, Steve McManaman, Patrik Berger, David Thompson, Stan Collymore, Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen

Bagging Berger

After finishing third in 1995-1996 behind Manchester United and Newcastle United, Liverpool FC were seen as a creditable contender for Premier League glory. Six whole seasons had now passed since the Reds had been English champions and that was far too long for many of the patient supporters.

Manager Roy Evans didn’t see any need to invest heavily in the summer transfer market but he did swoop for the Czech midfielder Patrik Berger from Borussia Dortmund. Berger had excelled at the 1996 European Championships, helping his country reach the final and Liverpool snapped him up for £3.25 million.

One player who did move on was Ian Rush, who had announced his departure towards the end of the previous campaign. Rush was LFC’s all-time leading goalscorer but had now fallen behind Robbie Fowler and Stan Collymore in the pecking order and elected to move on for a fresh challenge at Leeds United.

Setting the pace

Liverpool’s first game of the new season came at The Riverside Stadium against Middlesbrough and it was a thrilling contest. The Reds led three times through goals from Stig Inge Bjornebye, John Barnes and Fowler. However, they had to be content with a 3-3 draw thanks to a spectacular opening day hat-trick from Middlesbrough’s new striker, Fabrizio Ravanelli.

The first victory arrived two days later when two Steve McManaman goals defeated Arsenal 2-0 at Anfield and Liverpool stayed unbeaten for the first eight matches of the Premier League campaign, topping the standings at the end of September.

Berger settled in very quickly, grabbing a brace on his LFC debut in a fine 3-0 away win at Filbert Street against Leicester City before repeating the trick in a fabulous 5-1 victory over Chelsea at Anfield. Fowler was still scoring goals as freely as the previous campaign and even the unlikely source of Phil Babb popped up with the winner at his old stomping ground of Highfield Road.

There were only three defeats in the first half of the campaign. The first came at Old Trafford in mid-October thanks to a David Beckham strike. There was a dismal day at Ewood Park where Liverpool lost 3-0 to bottom-placed Blackburn Rovers and in early December, surprise packages Sheffield Wednesday claimed a 1-0 victory and became the first team to leave Anfield with all three points in the 1996-1997 campaign.

Fowler scored four goals in the return fixture with Middlesbrough and when Barnes rolled back the years with a winning goal from distance in the final Premier League fixture of 1996 away at Southampton, Liverpool went into 1997 holding a useful five-point lead at the top of the table.

29th DECEMBER 1996 TABLE

POS TABLE P W D L F A GD PTS
1 LIVERPOOL FC 21 12 6 3 38 19 +19 42
2 Manchester United 20 10 7 3 42 25 +17 37
3 Arsenal 20 10 7 3 37 20 +17 37
4 Wimbledon 19 11 4 4 33 23 +10 37
5 Newcastle United 20 10 4 6 35 22 +13 34
6 Aston Villa 20 10 4 6 29 19 +10 34

Faltering signs

1997 did start with a 1-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge to Chelsea who would also stage an extraordinary fightback from 2-0 down to beat Evans’ side 4-2 in the FA Cup fourth round. Liverpool though were still conducting business in the Premier League in a fairly professional manner.

They kept five successive clean sheets in the top-flight after the setback in west London and dismissed Aston Villa and Leeds United very comfortably. The Villa game saw the first Premier League appearance from young defender Jamie Carragher and he scored the opening goal too in the 3-0 triumph.

The first signs of a faltering title bid came towards the end of February against Blackburn Rovers on home soil. Despite dominating possession and creating a host of chances, Liverpool’s finishing let them down with Fowler especially guilty of missing glorious openings. The 0-0 draw was the third stalemate at home in the season for Liverpool and this was an omen of things to come.

A week later, a late Ian Taylor goal sent Liverpool to defeat at Villa Park and gave reigning champions Manchester United a four-point lead at the top of the table. Liverpool dropped further points away at The City Ground, drawing 1-1 when Ian Woan punished a dreadful goalkeeping error from David James.

James was starting to cost Liverpool crucial points, earning himself the unfortunate nickname of ‘Calamity James.’ In early April, he was at fault for both goals to allow 20th place Coventry City to come from behind to pull off a stunning 2-1 victory at Anfield. The title dream was ebbing away and the supporters knew it.

A catastrophe against Manchester United

In that period, Liverpool did beat both Newcastle United and Arsenal. In the latter game, Fowler won a UEFA Fair Play Award for attempting to overturn Gerald Ashby’s decision to give the Reds a penalty after Fowler went down without any contact from Arsenal goalkeeper David Seaman.

There were serious question marks about Liverpool’s hunger and mentality. Some of the young players – particularly Fowler, McManaman, Jamie Redknapp and Jason McAteer were criticised for partying too much and not focusing completely on football. Another unfortunate tag was dished out with this group being referred too as ‘The Spice Boys.’

The final nail in Liverpool’s title coffin came when league leaders Manchester United arrived at Anfield on 19th April. This was the Reds last chance and they put in a deeply disappointing display. They conceded two sloppy set-piece goals to Gary Pallister and James had another catastrophe, failing to catch a cross and allowing Andy Cole to score one of the simplest goals of his career. The Red Devils won 3-1 and it was all over.

Title hopes officially ended on 6th May when Liverpool lost 2-1 to Wimbledon which ended their mathematical hopes of catching Manchester United. The only plus point of a thoroughly frustrating evening at Selhurst Park was the emergence of young prodigy Michael Owen. Owen came off the bench and scored with virtually his first chance in the senior side. Having impressed greatly at youth level, this was Owen’s big moment and a goalscoring star was well and truly born.

Second place was still up for grabs on the final day but Liverpool could only draw 1-1 at Sheffield Wednesday. Rivals Newcastle United and Arsenal both won which saw them overtake Liverpool on the final day on goal difference. Newcastle grabbed second spot which meant they would compete in the following season’s UEFA Champions League.

Despite having been considered as the best team for much of the season, Liverpool FC had nothing to show for their efforts. Fourth place and two cup semi-finals was seen as a major underachievement for this emerging team and they wouldn’t get a better opportunity to end the league famine for the remainder of the 1990s.

FINAL 1996-1997 TABLE – FIRST TO SIXTH

POS TABLE P W D L F A GD PTS
1 Manchester United 38 21 12 5 76 44 +32 75
2 Newcastle United 38 19 11 8 73 40 +33 68
3 Arsenal 38 19 11 8 62 32 +30 68
4 LIVERPOOL FC 38 19 11 8 62 37 +25 68
5 Aston Villa 38 17 10 11 47 34 +13 61
6 Chelsea 38 16 11 11 58 55 +3 59

Premier League Files: Steve Finnan

Premier League Career: Fulham (2001-2003), Liverpool FC (2003-2008), Portsmouth (2009-2010)

Republic of Ireland right-back Steve Finnan has a unique feat of being the only player to have played in the World Cup, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup, UEFA Intertoto Cup, all four levels of English league football and the Conference. Known predominately for his tremendous ability to cross the ball and flying forward to help out attacking situations, Finnan was a quality defender and a fans favourite at both Fulham and Liverpool FC. He was often one of the unsung heroes, especially during Rafa Benitez’s tenure at Anfield.

Finnan began his career in the youth system at Wimbledon but was released by the club at the age of 16 and had to work his way up from non-league level with Welling United. It was Birmingham City who helped him turn professional in 1995, paying Welling United a fee of £100,000 to sign him. Steve would move on to Notts County in March 1996, initially on-loan where he helped them reach the Second Division play-off final, losing to Bradford City. His impressive loan period with them was enough for the club to offer Birmingham £300,000 for his services in October 1996.

After a relegation to Division Three and an instant promotion at County, future England boss Kevin Keegan took Finnan to Craven Cottage in November 1998 for £600,000. Fulham’s promotion to Division One meant he enjoyed back-to-back promotions and in 2001, this became three promotions in four years when he appeared in 45 of the 46 league matches under Jean Tigana’s stewardship.

In his debut Premier League season, Finnan impressed both Fulham supporters and his peers who voted him into the PFA Team of the Year for 2001-2002. He was also the club’s choice as Player of the Year. Victory in the UEFA Intertoto Cup that summer meant he got his first experience of European club football in 2002-2003 as Fulham played in the early rounds of the UEFA Cup. By the summer of 2003, many of England’s top clubs were scouting and showing interest in Steve’s services.

Fulham sold him to Liverpool FC for £3.5 million but it was a rocky start. His first campaign on Merseyside was disrupted by injury and when Benitez arrived to succeed Gerard Houllier as manager, Finnan’s time at Anfield looked like it would be brief. It wasn’t helped when Rafa’s first signing was a right-back in the shape of Josemi. Hard work, determination and proving a point helped him win over any doubts the manager might have had.

In September 2004, he would score his one and only goal for the club against West Bromwich Albion, meaning he shares a record with Jimmy Willis of scoring in each of the five highest divisions of English football. He saw off the threat of Josemi and established himself as Liverpool’s first-choice right-back for the next three-and-a-half years. In January 2006 after producing another fine cross for Harry Kewell to smash home a winner against Tottenham Hotspur, Benitez admitted: “Finnan is a player who will always play at a consistent level. He will be seven, eight, nine or even ten out of ten every week. This is really important for the team. Some players find a good level for individual games, but don’t do the same every week. Finnan does it for a whole season.”

The 2004-2005 season ended with Liverpool FC’s unbelievable comeback in the UEFA Champions League final against AC Milan. They trailed 3-0 at half-time but scored three goals in six second half minutes and the heroics of Jerzy Dudek in-goal saw the Reds triumph in the penalty shootout. For Finnan, it was bittersweet. A thigh injury forced him to be substituted at half-time.

He was an ever-present in Liverpool’s 2005-2006 Premier League campaign as the Reds finished third with their highest points tally at the time for a Premier League season of 82. He claimed more medals with the UEFA Super Cup and the FA Cup both heading back to the club by the end of the season. With Josemi gone, Jan Kromkamp arrived for competition but he was another player who failed to usurp Finnan from the right-back role.

It looked like Alvaro Arbeloa would head in the same direction when he arrived midway through the 2006-2007 campaign. It was Finnan who got the vote to play again in another UEFA Champions League final. This time, he lasted 88 minutes before being subbed, this time in a 2-1 defeat to AC Milan in Athens. That summer, he agreed a two-year contract extension to stay on Merseyside.

He featured 35 times in 2007-2008 and took his total appearances for the club past the 200 mark. However, a few niggling injuries saw Arbeloa get his chance and when the Reds went on a winning run with him in the side, Steve couldn’t force his way back into the team when he recovered from injury. When another full-back arrived in the summer of 2008 in the form of Philipp Degen, Finnan knew his time at Liverpool was coming to an end. It looked like he would join Aston Villa as part of a deal that would see Gareth Barry go to Liverpool. However, the clubs couldn’t agree a fee on Barry’s transfer which meant his proposed switch to Villa Park collapsed. Instead, he moved to La Liga to join Espanyol on transfer deadline day in September 2008.

His time in Spain was a wretched experience. He made just four league appearances before his contract was mutually terminated after a succession of injuries. This also saw a potential move to Hull City collapse. In July 2009, Finnan returned to English football, signing a one-year contract with Portsmouth who were in severe financial peril. He made 21 Premier League appearances for Pompey who went into administration during the campaign, guaranteeing relegation at the end of the season. After playing in the FA Cup final defeat to Chelsea, Finnan was released and never played professional football again.

He won 53 caps for The Republic of Ireland between 2000 and 2008, playing a prominent role in Mick McCarthy’s squad at the 2002 World Cup finals, scoring his penalty in the shootout defeat to Spain in the round-of-16. Since retirement, Steve worked in The Gambia, providing irrigation for impoverished children before moving into property development back in the UK.

Premier League Rewind: 19th-21st October 2002

Results: Leeds United 0-1 Liverpool FC, Blackburn Rovers 5-2 Newcastle United, Everton 2-1 Arsenal, Fulham 1-1 Manchester United, Manchester City 0-3 Chelsea, Sunderland 0-1 West Ham United, West Bromwich Albion 1-1 Birmingham City, Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 Bolton Wanderers, Charlton Athletic 1-0 Middlesbrough, Aston Villa 0-1 Southampton

Reigning Premier League champions Arsenal were in sensational form ahead of this round of fixtures in the 2002-2003 season. Undefeated in league matches since December 2001, the Gunners travelled to Goodison Park full of confidence and looking to extend their 30-match unbeaten run.

It seemed like it was going to the formbook when Freddie Ljungberg put the Gunners infront meaning they had now scored in 49 consecutive matches. However, this was an Everton side that was beginning to show some real promise under David Moyes. After Lee Carsley had an effort that hit the post, Tomasz Radzinski drove in an equaliser past David Seaman midway through the first half. The game looked like it was going to end in a draw when 16-year-old Wayne Rooney tried his luck from distance and his shot beat Seaman comprehensively. It was his first Premier League goal and ended Arsenal’s 10-month unbeaten sequence in the Premier League. After the game, a gracious Arsene Wenger said: “Rooney is the biggest England talent I’ve seen since I arrived in England.” He wasn’t wrong either judging by how his career worked out.

Arsenal’s slip up on Merseyside meant Liverpool FC finished the weekend top of the table. The Reds had already hit top spot before Arsenal kicked off because their match concluded on Saturday lunchtime and they grabbed a narrow 1-0 victory away at Elland Road over Leeds United. It was a goal scored in Yorkshire but made by two Senegalese players. El-Hadji Diouf’s fine cross was prodded into the back of the net by Salif Diao. It was his first and only Premier League goal as a Liverpool FC player.

Middlesbrough began the weekend in third place but dropped two places after slipping to a 1-0 defeat at The Valley against Charlton Athletic. Jason Euell’s fourth-minute header saw the Addicks climb out of the drop zone with only their third victory from 10 games this season. The team to benefit from Boro’s defeat were Tottenham Hotspur. Glenn Hoddle’s side recorded their sixth victory from 10 outings as they beat Bolton Wanderers 3-1 at White Hart Lane. Robbie Keane was quickly becoming a favourite with the Spurs faithful. He added another two goals to his tally since his late August move from Leeds United.

Manchester United remained in fourth place but required a second half equaliser from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to earn a hard-fought point in a 1-1 draw at Fulham, who consolidated their position in the top half of the table. However, the Cottagers did slip below west London rivals Chelsea in the table after Claudio Ranieri’s side achieved a convincing 3-0 away victory on their last-ever trip to Maine Road against Manchester City. There were two more goals for Gianfranco Zola who was enjoying the limelight in his final season as a Chelsea player.

Sunderland unveiled a new management team after parting company with Peter Reid just before the last international break. Howard Wilkinson returned to Premier League management for the first time in six years, supported by Steve Cotterill. They got off to a shocking start though, losing 1-0 at home to fellow strugglers West Ham United. The Hammers moved into 14th place after achieving their third win in four matches but with just six points covering the entire bottom half of the table, there was still little to separate the struggling teams in this intriguing Premier League season.

What else happened in October 2002?

  • Over 200 people are killed when multiple bombs are planted in two nightclubs on the Indonesian island of Bali. Over 20 UK nationals are among the dead.
  • Chechen rebels take control of the Nord-Ost theatre in Moscow, holding the audience hostage. Following a Russian attempt to subdue the militants, at least 170 people are killed.
  • Estelle Morris steps down as Secretary of State for Education.
  • Hearsay confirms they are going to go their separate ways. Created by the ITV series Popstars, they cite pressure and public abuse for their reasons.
  • Following allegations about his personal life in the press and from Matthew Wright on his Channel Five programme, This Morning presenter John Leslie is sacked.
  • The Northern Ireland Assembly is suspended following allegations of spying.
  • The BBC Asian Network is broadcast nationally for the first time.

 

Great Goals: Fernando Torres – LIVERPOOL FC vs. Blackburn Rovers (April 2009)

Liverpool FC’s last Premier League home match before the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster was against Blackburn Rovers. Going for the league title against bitter enemies Manchester United, they made a fantastic start through the genius of Fernando Torres.

During his three-and-a-half year spell on Merseyside, ‘El Nino’ was at his best and was considered one of the best finishers in European football. He demonstrated this with his opener here against Blackburn.

Only five minutes had been played when from Jamie Carragher’s long ball, Torres controlled the ball brilliantly, turned and struck the sweetest of volleys that flew past Paul Robinson into the far corner of the net. Liverpool won the match 4-0 and although they finished four points shy of winning the title, they ended the campaign as the league’s top goalscorers, helped by special efforts like this from Torres.

Shock Results: Bradford City 1-0 Liverpool FC (May 2000)

Goalscorer: David Wetherall 12

Teams:

Bradford City: Matt Clarke, John Dreyer, Gunnar Halle, Andy O’Brien, David Wetherall, Jamie Lawrence, Stuart McCall, Lee Sharpe, Peter Beagrie (Wayne Jacobs 81), Dean Saunders (Isaiah Rankin 78), Dean Windass

Liverpool FC: Sander Westerveld, Jamie Carragher, Stephane Henchoz, Sami Hyypia, Dominic Matteo (Erik Meijer 82), Dietmar Hamann, Jamie Redknapp, Steven Gerrard (Vladimir Smicer 61), Patrik Berger (Titi Camara 61), Emile Heskey, Michael Owen

Referee: Dermot Gallagher, Attendance: 18,276

Tipped by many to go straight back down after promotion to the Premier League, Bradford City went into the final day of the 1999-2000 season still with a fighting chance of survival. However, they had to win against Liverpool FC who were chasing a UEFA Champions League qualification spot. Even a win might not be enough if Wimbledon got all three points in a simultaneous kick-off at The Dell against Southampton.

Before kick-off, both teams paid their respects to the 56 victims of the fire at Valley Parade 15 years earlier. From the outset, the Bantams put Liverpool under early pressure and they grabbed a vital lead in the 12th minute. From a free-kick on the left-hand side, David Wetherall escaped some pretty slack marking from Liverpool defenders and planted a powerful header into the back of the visitors’ net.

Gerard Houllier’s side had failed to score in their last four matches and were playing in the first half like a side that had lost any confidence in shooting, let alone scoring. Nevertheless, they nearly equalised when Michael Owen raced clear of the defenders from Emile Heskey’s flick-on and rounded goalkeeper Matt Clarke. However, his effort was cleared off the goal-line by Gunnar Halle, who had played a key part in Oldham’s dramatic final day escape seven years earlier.

The Valley Parade crowd was in party mood which increased further when Wayne Bridge scored a free-kick on the south coast to put Southampton ahead against Wimbledon. Having been the more attacking side in the first half, the Yorkshire side had to focus on heroic defending efforts in the second half. Owen clipped an effort just wide of the post as news came through Southampton had doubled their lead through Marian Pahars. With the Saints doing their bit, the main question now was whether Bradford could hold on. Dean Windass, whose goals recently had given Bradford a fighting chance of beating the drop, nearly caught Sander Westerveld out with a long-range lob from distance. The goalkeeper just recovered in-time to tip his effort over the crossbar.

There was a minor pitch invasion when fans mistakenly thought the full-time whistle had been blown early by referee Dermot Gallagher but moments later, he did blow and the fans could race onto the field to celebrate their unlikely but deserved survival. Champagne corks starting popping in the home dressing room as Bradford players celebrated their remarkable achievement. Manager Paul Jewell sadly left the club a few weeks’ later after disagreements with the owner and took the vacancy at relegated Sheffield Wednesday.

Relegation did follow in 2001 but this was a momentous day in the history of Bradford City Football Club. Liverpool’s defeat meant they finished fourth and were pipped to Champions League qualification by Leeds United.

Premier League Files: David Ngog

Premier League Career: Liverpool FC (2008-2011), Bolton Wanderers (2011-2012), Swansea City (2014)

Still only 29, David Ngog has been much-travelled in recent times since his Premier League career ended in 2014. Ngog currently plays in Hungary for Budapest Honved having played in the French, Greek and Scottish top divisions since he left Swansea City in 2014. At Budapest, he wears one of the more unconventional squad numbers currently around in professional football – no.89.

Cousin of former Auxerre and Newcastle United defender Jean-Alain Boumsong, Ngog started his career in 2001 in the youth academy at French superpower, Paris Saint-Germain. He was promoted into the first-team ranks in 2006 and made 14 appearances across three years. In July 2008, he left the French capital and joined Liverpool FC as a backup striker. Rafa Benitez was delighted that his scouting network had discovered Ngog and he scored in just his second game for the club in a pre-season friendly against Rangers.

His first meaningful LFC goal arrived in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League in December 2008, sealing a 3-1 away victory against PSV Eindhoven. Ngog scored in home victories over Sunderland and Blackburn Rovers in 2008-2009 as he played a dutiful back-up role to Fernando Torres. He figured more prominently in the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 Premier League campaigns, making 49 appearances but he scored just seven times and failed to live up to his undoubted early potential that had seen Benitez sign him.

Ngog did score against some top sides, including the second goal in a 2-0 home win over Manchester United in October 2009 and Liverpool’s first goal of the 2010-2011 Premier League season in a 1-1 draw with Arsenal. However with Luis Suarez, Andy Carroll, Craig Bellamy and Dirk Kuyt all seen as better options by Kenny Dalglish, Ngog was sold on transfer deadline day in August 2011 for £4 million to Bolton Wanderers.

He made 33 appearances in 2011-2012 but scored just three times and Bolton were relegated from the top-flight. Fulham showed an interest that summer to keep him in the Premier League but a bid was rejected by Bolton and Ngog actually stayed with the Trotters in the Championship, scoring 11 times in the second-tier of English football before moving to Swansea City in 2014.

His time in south Wales wasn’t anything to write home about. Three appearances, no goals and his six-year spell in the English leagues ended in September 2014 when he signed a two-year contract with Stade Reims. Since then, he has played for Panionios, Ross County and Budapest Honved where he scored seven minutes into his league debut for his current club in August 2018.

Memorable Matches: Crystal Palace 3-3 Liverpool FC (May 2014)

Goalscorers: Joe Allen 18, Damien Delaney 53 OG, Luis Suarez 55, Damien Delaney 79, Dwight Gayle 81, 88

Teams:

Crystal Palace: Julian Speroni, Scott Dann, Damien Delaney, Adrian Mariappa, Joel Ward, Kagisho Dikgacoi (Tom Ince 85), Mile Jedinak, Jason Puncheon (Dwight Gayle 65), Joe Ledley, Yannick Bolasie, Marouane Chamakh (Glenn Murray 71)

Liverpool FC: Simon Mignolet, Jon Flanagan, Mamadou Sakho, Martin Skrtel, Glen Johnson, Lucas, Joe Allen, Steven Gerrard, Raheem Sterling (Philippe Coutinho 78), Daniel Sturridge (Victor Moses 86), Luis Suarez

Referee: Mark Clattenburg, Attendance: 25,261

Following Manchester City’s win at Everton 48 hours earlier, Liverpool FC couldn’t afford any slip-ups in their penultimate match of the 2013-2014 season at Selhurst Park against an ever-improving Crystal Palace side. The Reds knew a victory would put them top of the table again, even if the destiny of the championship was out of their hands.

Goal difference was against the Reds but they were an attacking threat from all directions and this was shown early on when Glen Johnson made a deep run from full-back and only just headed wide of the post after being picked out beautifully by Joe Allen. On 18 minutes, Allen opened the scoring. The Welshman escaped his markers at the far post to guide home Steven Gerrard’s corner, scoring his first Premier League goal for the club in the process.

Palace came into the match having won five of their last six matches and certainly contributed to the contest. Both Jason Puncheon and Mile Jedinak forced Simon Mignolet into vital saves in the first half to preserve Liverpool’s lead at the interval.

That advantage was doubled eight minutes into the second half. Daniel Sturridge’s shot deflected off Damien Delaney and into the corner of Julian Speroni’s net. Two minutes later, Raheem Sterling picked out Luis Suarez and the Premier League’s top scorer bagged his 31st goal of the campaign from close-range. All of a sudden, Liverpool had raced clear into a 3-0 lead and sensed an opportunity to score more goals. They didn’t come and Brendan Rodgers’ side were about to be stunned in an amazing final 11 minutes.

First, Delaney’s fortunes changed. Given time to try his luck, the centre-back saw his own effort deflect off Johnson and rise into the top corner, giving Mignolet no chance. It was a time for Liverpool to stay calm and take the result they had but two minutes later, Palace grabbed another goal back. Yannick Bolasie’s searing pace on the counter-attack left the visitors short in defensive numbers. Bolasie picked out substitute Dwight Gayle who produced an excellent finish into the bottom corner.

The home supporters could sense the sudden shift in momentum and the remarkable comeback was completed in the 88th minute. A long ball up the field was chested on by Glenn Murray into the path of Gayle who scored his second of the evening to make it 3-3. In eight crazy minutes, the Reds had forfeited a three-goal lead and their title chances were all but gone. As Martin Tyler put it in his Sky Sports commentary: “Liverpool have caved in!”

Rodgers’ side had one final chance from a corner but Lucas was denied by Speroni and soon afterwards, the final whistle was blown. The point did actually take Liverpool top of the table but it was advantage Manchester City. The tears from Suarez at full-time said it all. Liverpool had thrown it away and six days later, Manchester City’s second Premier League title was confirmed.

Great Goals: Xabi Alonso – LIVERPOOL FC vs. Newcastle United (September 2006)

In January 2006, Xabi Alonso scored a wonderful goal in a see-saw FA Cup tie away at Luton Town from inside his own half. However, the Spaniard was helped by the fact that Luton goalkeeper Marlon Beresford was way out of his goal having come forward for a Luton corner.

Alonso was never shy of trying his luck from long-range and he even admitted to practising efforts from the halfway line in training. The practice was worth it against Newcastle in September 2006.

Liverpool FC had made a slow start to the season, winning just one of their first four fixtures. They were leading this match through Dirk Kuyt’s first goal for the club but Alonso’s effort took centre stage. Spotting Steve Harper off his goal-line, Alonso decided to go for goal and he judged his strike perfectly. He was helped slightly by Harper slipping as he backpedalled but in terms of execution, it was inch-perfect and any goal from the halfway line shouldn’t be knocked.

Liverpool won the game 2-0 in a campaign which saw only Manchester United leave Anfield in the Premier League with all three points.

Premier League Files: Milan Baros

Premier League Career: Liverpool FC (2002-2005), Aston Villa (2005-2007), Portsmouth (2008)

Milan Baros might be 37-years-old but he is still plying his trade in the Czech League for Banik Ostrava. He finished as top scorer at the 2004 European Championships with five goals and won the UEFA Champions League with Liverpool FC a year later. His Premier League career though was a mixed bag with injury playing his part. Baros also wasn’t the strongest when it came to one-on-one situations with the opposing goalkeeper.

Baros’ career has gone full circle as he made his debut in the Czech League 21 years ago for Banik Ostrava. He scored 23 league goals in 76 appearances during his first spell, winning the Talent of the Year award at the Czech Footballer of the Year awards in 2000.

Liverpool FC took note and signed him in 2002 for £3.2 million. Fighting Emile Heskey and El-Hadji Diouf for a regular spot as Michael Owen’s strike partner, Baros’ first full season was considered a success, scoring 12 times. This included an electrifying debut away at Bolton Wanderers in September 2002 where Milan scored twice. He also won his first piece of major silverware, the League Cup in 2003 against Manchester United, arriving as a second half substitute.

In September 2003, Baros sustained a bad injury in the opening exchanges of a clash with Blackburn Rovers. He broke his ankle and was ruled out of action for over five months. This meant first-team football was limited and restricted him to just two league goals that season. So, no-one could have forecasted the amazing summer Baros was about to experience with his country at the European Championships.

He scored in all three group games and twice in the quarter-final victory over Denmark. The Czech Republic had a gifted team with the likes of Pavel Nedved, Tomas Rosicky and Petr Cech among their stars. Considered favourites for the competition after the early exits of Italy, Spain and Germany, the Czechs were beaten on the ‘Silver Goal’ by surprise packages Greece in the semi-final. Baros himself didn’t complete the match. He was injured in the first half. It was the closest he would get to major international honours. He played at both the 2006 World Cup and 2008 European Championships but both competitions ended in group stage exits. Baros retired from international duty in 2012, having scored 41 times in 93 appearances. Only his long-time strike partner Jan Koller has scored more international goals for the Czech Republic.

With Owen and Heskey sold in the summer of 2004, Baros became Liverpool FC’s senior striker in Rafa Benitez’s first season at the helm. He scored 13 times in all competitions but couldn’t replicate the form he’d shown throughout the summer of 2004 in Portugal. He did score a Premier League hat-trick though in November 2004 in a narrow 3-2 home win over Crystal Palace, although two of these goals were penalties. The arrival of Fernando Morientes in January 2005 gave Baros some competition for a regular striking berth in the second half of the season and this left him as a frustrated substitute in the League Cup final. However, with Morientes cup-tied, Baros did start the 2005 UEFA Champions League final and played 85 minutes of the historic night in Istanbul which saw Liverpool regain the European Cup in the most unbelievable manner. It was reported that during the team’s celebration, Baros actually dropped the trophy, leaving a dent in it! It was almost his final act as an LFC player.

Lyon expressed an interest in the summer of 2005 to sign him but Baros turned the move down and after two substitute appearances at the start of 2005-2006, Milan left Anfield behind and joined Aston Villa for £6.5 million. Just 10 minutes into his league debut for the Villans, he scored what turned out to be the only goal of the game against Blackburn Rovers. He also scored twice in the 4-0 triumph at home to Everton on Boxing Day and made himself a bigger favourite with the supporters with another crucial double in April 2006 to help Villa defeat neighbours Birmingham City 3-1. That win effectively guaranteed the club’s Premier League status for another season. He scored 12 goals in his debut campaign in the Midlands but some felt his performances were indifferent considering the fee that had been sanctioned for his services.

Martin O’Neill took over in the summer of 2006 and preferred other striking options. Baros featured 17 times but mainly from the bench with his only goal coming in a 2-2 draw at Sheffield United in December 2006. He left in January 2007 and ultimately signed for Lyon, linking up again with Gerard Houllier, who had brought him into English football five years earlier. This was part of a swap deal that saw John Carew head to Aston Villa. Lyon won the French title that season but Houllier left in the close season and Baros didn’t get on with his replacement, Alain Perrin, featuring just six times under his management.

He returned to the English top-flight in January 2008, joining Portsmouth on-loan until the end of the season. He was part of the Pompey squad that won the 2008 FA Cup, setting up Kanu for his matchwinning strike in the semi-finals against West Bromwich Albion. However, he failed to score in his 16 appearances for the club and was absent from the team parade with the trophy. He left at the end of the season and ultimately, moved to Turkish champions Galatasaray in August 2008.

He claimed his second major league title in 2012 with the Turkish side and finished top scorer in the division in his first season with the club, netting 20 times including a hat-trick against fierce rivals Besiktas. Since 2012, Milan has moved about constantly in his homeland, spending two other spells with Banik Ostrava along with one campaign each at Mlada Boleslav and Slovan Liberec but never repeating the serial goalscoring form he demonstrated at Galatasaray or for his country. He did spend one further season in Turkey with Antalyaspor but disappointed with two goals in just 13 appearances.

Baros has four goals this season with Banik sitting in the top four in the table and set to take part in the Championship Group which decides the European positions at the end of the season for the Czech Republic.

Iconic Moments: 86 and out at home for Chelsea (October 2008)

The longest unbeaten home record in Premier League history belongs to Chelsea. They went on an incredible four years and eight months run without losing a league game at Stamford Bridge. That spanned a sensational 86 matches.

The run began after the Arsenal ‘Invincibles’ side recorded a 2-1 victory in west London in February 2004. Chelsea didn’t lose a home league match for four full Premier League seasons afterwards which included the whole of Jose Mourinho’s first spell as Blues boss and two title-winning campaigns.

The run was ended by Liverpool FC. Xabi Alonso’s deflected shot was enough for the Reds to record a 1-0 win in October 2008 during Luiz Felipe Scolari’s short reign as Chelsea manager.

Nevertheless, it is a feat that is very unlikely to be ever matched in Premier League history.

The Managers: Jurgen Klopp

Premier League Clubs Managed: Liverpool FC (2015-PRESENT)

After deciding to part ways with Brendan Rodgers in October 2015, Liverpool FC turned to Germany and one of the most charismatic managers in the game to revive their fortunes. The Reds had won just one trophy in nine years and had only qualified for the UEFA Champions League once in five seasons.

Jurgen Klopp was on a managerial break after ending his successful stint with Borussia Dortmund in May 2015 but the lure of managing one of the most passionate clubs in world football was simply too much to turn down. Klopp has galvanised Liverpool into an exciting team again, adding more defensive steel in the last 12 months and it means the Merseysiders have a real chance of ending their league championship drought this season.

Often believed to be the man who created the philosophy known as ‘Gegenpressing,’ Klopp is considered as a popular manager with the media too but he will need to start turning Liverpool into serial winners in the coming years.

Mainz factor

Born in Stuttgart in 1967, Jurgen Klopp grew up in the Black Forest countryside village of Glatten in Germany. Introduced into football by his father Norbert, Klopp supported VfB Stuttgart as a boy but actually aspired to be a doctor during his education. Liverpool supporters are probably relieved he decided to go down the football route.

In 1990, he signed for Mainz and began a relationship with the club that lasted nearly 20 years. He is still considered as one of Mainz’s finest icons, playing for the side for 11 years. He scored 52 league goals in 325 club matches, starting out as a forward before being converted into a defender in 1995. Mainz have been a stable of the Bundesliga for several years now but in Klopp’s time, they were one of the smaller sides competing in 2. Bundesliga and he never played as a player in the German top-flight.

In 2001, Jurgen decided to hang up his footballing boots, as he began to realise that his qualities as a coach could lead to a longer career in football. Mainz didn’t want to see one of their idols leave and when they elected to sack Eckhard Krautzen, Klopp was appointed as his successor. His first match as a manager came on 28th February 2001, spearheading his team to a narrow 1-0 victory over MSV Duisburg. 18 years on, Klopp is now widely regarded as one of the best managers currently in the game.

Klopp actually won six of his first seven matches as a manager and he achieved promotion to the Bundesliga with Mainz in 2004 after two near-misses in previous campaigns. It was Mainz’s first-ever promotion into the big league in Germany.

In those days, the big-hitters in the Bundesliga when it came to coaches were Felix Magath at Bayern Munich, Jupp Heynckes at Schalke, Bert van Marwijk at Borussia Dortmund and Thomas Schaaf who had recently led SV Werder Bremen to a league and cup double. Despite having one of the smallest budgets and the smallest stadium in the division, Klopp led Mainz to back-to-back 11th place finishes and a maiden European campaign where they lost to Sevilla in the first round of the 2006 UEFA Cup.

In 2007, Mainz were relegated which was a major blow for Jurgen and one he was unable to recover from. After missing out on an instant promotion back to the top-flight in 2008, pipped by Hoffenheim and Cologne, Klopp resigned at the end of the season, finishing with a record of 109 victories, 78 draws and 83 losses from his tenure as their manager.

Borussia Dortmund though had been impressed with Klopp’s reign at Mainz and needed a lift out of the doldrums.

Making Dortmund great again

Borussia Dortmund finished the 2007-2008 Bundesliga season in a miserable 13th position and unsurprisingly, dismissed Thomas Doll after this underwhelming campaign. Klopp was seen as the man to revive their fortunes.

Under his stewardship, Dortmund boasted one of the youngest squads in the league and Klopp allowed players like Shinji Kagawa and Mats Hummels to flourish and become household global superstars. After finishing sixth and fifth in his first two full campaigns as BVB boss, it all came together in season 2010-2011. Dortmund won 14 matches in a row to sit top of the table at the winter break and helped by 16 goals from Lucas Barrios, they couldn’t be caught by Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Bayern Munich. Dortmund’s seventh league championship was sealed in late April with a 2-0 home victory over Nürnberg. They became the youngest-ever side to win the Bundesliga.

It got even better in 2011-2012. They gathered 81 points, enjoyed a 28-match unbeaten run and equalled Bayern Munich’s record of 25 victories in a league season. A second title followed and a resounding 5-2 thrashing of Bayern in the 2012 DfB-Pokal final gave Borussia Dortmund their first-ever domestic double. It was the stuff of dreams for the supporters. After years out of the spotlight, Dortmund were great again.

Next target was to make the club a genuine European contender and it happened in the 2012-2013 season. Dortmund made the UEFA Champions League final, beating the likes of Manchester City and Real Madrid to reach the showpiece event at Wembley Stadium. Standing in their way of a second UEFA Champions League victory were their great rivals from Munich. Bayern had regained the Bundesliga title and in an intense and keenly-fought match, it was an 89th minute winner from Arjen Robben that separated the sides. Bayern went on to win the treble in Heynckes’ final season and a new rivalry was about to emerge in the Bundesliga between Klopp and Pep Guardiola.

Guardiola drew first blood with the signing of playmaker Mario Gotze from Dortmund after Bayern activated his release clause in his contract and in the end, Bayern ran away with the title in 2013-2014, winning the league title by a staggering 19 points. Despite scoring 80 goals and boasting the top scorer in the league in Robert Lewandowski with 20, Dortmund were no match for Bayern and in the DfB-Pokal final, Bayern underlined that strength with a 2-0 victory.

Lewandowski joined Bayern that summer on a free transfer and Klopp’s time with Borussia Dortmund was drawing to a conclusion. The 2014-2015 league season was disastrous. Dortmund won only four matches in the first half of the season and when FC Augsburg won 1-0 at Signal Iduna Park on 4th February 2015, Borussia Dortmund dropped to the bottom of the table. Relegation looked a distinct possibility. Roman Weidenfeller and Hummels were seen in tense exchanges with frustrated supporters. Two points from safety, Dortmund rallied with nine victories in their last 14 matches and climbed up to seventh position by the season’s end. However in April 2015, Klopp announced he would be leaving at the end of the campaign. There was an enjoyable penalty shootout victory over Guardiola’s Bayern in the DfB-Pokal semi-finals but no fairytale ending as VfL Wolfsburg won the final 3-1 in Klopp’s last match as Dortmund manager.

He departed for a brief break away from football but the Premier League would soon be calling.

Early progression signs at LFC

In October 2015, Liverpool FC elected to part company with Brendan Rodgers just hours after a 1-1 draw in the Merseyside Derby with Everton. Immediately, Klopp’s name was heavily linked.

On 8th October, Klopp was officially appointed as the Reds new manager and at his first press conference, quipped himself as “The Normal One” in reference to Jose Mourinho’s infamous press conference when he was unveiled as the Chelsea manager for the first time in 2004 when the Portuguese claimed to be “The Special One.”

Klopp began his reign in English football with a goalless draw away at Tottenham Hotspur where it was already evident that his ‘Gegenpressing’ tactics were being deployed and developed. Liverpool’s pressing and sprinting statistics were already on the increase.

His first Premier League victory came two weeks later with a fine 3-1 win at Chelsea against Mourinho and although there was still some inconsistency in the Premier League, Klopp helped Liverpool to two cup finals in his first season. Both ended in defeat. Liverpool lost on penalties to Manchester City in the League Cup final and despite taking the lead in the UEFA Europa League final against Sevilla, fell away in the second half to lose 3-1. The Europa League run did include victories over Manchester United and his former club Borussia Dortmund, with a thrilling comeback win in the second leg.

After finishing eighth in the Premier League in 2015-2016, Klopp and his coaching staff signed a six-year contract extension. In 2016-2017, Liverpool FC returned to the UEFA Champions League, securing qualification via the Premier League with a fourth place finish which was wrapped up on the final day with victory over Middlesbrough. The Reds finished undefeated against the other members of the top six, so could have finished higher but for some disappointing losses to teams in the bottom half of the table including Burnley, Swansea City and relegated Hull City.

Although the Merseysiders were thrilling to watch, they were still leaking goals at an alarming rate at the back and Klopp knew it. In January 2018, he paid a world-record transfer fee for a defender to Southampton, acquiring Virgil van Dijk for £75 million. Immediately, the Dutchman’s presence saw Liverpool boast the best defensive record in the second half of the Premier League campaign in 2017-2018. Heavy losses to Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur were quickly forgotten and Liverpool finished fourth for the second consecutive campaign. The thrills though were saved for the UEFA Champions League. Liverpool knocked out FC Porto, Manchester City and AS Roma on their way to the UEFA Champions League final in Kyiv. However, it ended in a 3-1 loss to Real Madrid meaning Klopp had now lost six of his previous seven cup finals.

In pre-season 2018, the squad was strengthened further by the additions of Fabinho from AS Monaco and the long-awaited capture of Naby Keita from RB Leipzig. Six successive victories at the start of the season saw Liverpool achieve their best start to a season in their 126-year history and they topped the table on Christmas Day, finishing the first half of the campaign unbeaten. Their one and only loss so far this season came in early January away at Manchester City.

Liverpool are desperate to land the Premier League title for the first time and they believe they’ve got the manager to end their league championship drought. Can Jurgen Klopp deliver what the fans want? Only time will tell.