Monday, April 9, 2012

The last of the rabble was peeled off at the ¼ and the only ‘strange’ semi-finalist was FC Brugge. Milan was their opponent at the ¼ finals and traditionally the Italians were expected to go ahead. But FC Brugge was enjoying excellent season and prevailed. The semi-finals ended the dreams of Barcelona and Hamburger SV. Liverpool humiliated Barcelona at Nou Camp, winning 1-0. 1-1 tie at Anfield was no consolation for Cruyff and company, but was enough for Keegan and the rest. FC Brugge strubbornly survived in Hamburg, managing also 1-1 draw. The second leg was also tough affair, but the Belgians won 1-0. The semi-finals were obviously heavily contested between quite equal teams and scoring was scarce. Liverpool and FC Brugge were to try winning the UEFA Cup.
The first leg should be remembered largely for the rare case of fulfilled predictions. Bob Paisley outlined a simple tactic before the game – he said that Liverpool must score three goals and thus build a solid advance before the second match. Happel, FC Brugge’s coach, said that his team must score two goals to ensure a tie or a minimal loss. At the end of the match both coaches happened to be right… and because of that, also wrong.
Liverpool apparently expected defensive style from the Belgians, or at least a team pushed back into defense by relentless English attacks. But Brugge thought differently – Liverpool was surprised by speedy attacks and caught off guard. By the 12th minute Happel was more than right: Brugge was leading 2-0. Thew first half was bitter for Liverpool – they never got into commanding the game flow and looked rather shocked. It was different picture after the break – finally Liverpool found their game and eventually started returning goals. If Brugge scored two in 12 minutes, Liverpool scored 3 in half the time – Kennedy in 59th, Case in 61st, and finally Keegan from a penalty in 64th turned around the result. But nothing more happened to the end. Well, Paisley was also right – his boys scored three goals, just as his said they will. Both coaches were right… expect Liverpool won by measly 1 goal difference and the Belgians were unable to preserve a tie. Yet, it was a result favourable to them – now they needed a minimal win: 1-0, 2-1 would be enough. True, Liverpool had won the UEFA Cup before, but Ernst Happel did won the European Champions Cup!
Weird photo from the opening match: what is Jensen doing here? Getting ready to clear the ball? Already cleared it? Or may be missed the ball entirely?
Final 1st Leg, Anfield Stadium, Liverpool, 28 Apr 1976, att 56000
Liverpool (0) 3 Club Brugge KV (2) 2
5' 0-1 CB: Lambert
15' 0-2 CB: Cools
59' 1-2 L: Kenndey
61' 2-2 L: Case
65' 3-2 L: Keegan (pen)
Liverpool:Clemence; Smith, Neal, Thompson, Hughes; Keegan, Kennedy, Callaghan;Fairclough, Heighway, Toshack (Case)
Club Brugge KV: Jensen; Bastijns, Krieger, Leekens, Volders; Cools, Vandereycken,Decubber; Van Gool, Lambert, Lefevre
Things changed significantly before the second leg: by now Anderelecht won the Cup Winners Cup, beating West Ham United 4-2, after a display of splendid football. Belgians were no longer the underdog – and Brugge was seen the favourite. Once again they scored early – from a penalty in the 11th minute. But Keegan restored equality in the 15th. It was equality only in the score – Liverpool played unusual defensive scheme, which Paisley later explained by tiredness: 7 of his players just came back from duties with their national teams. Rested or not, the British had to defend not only because of Paisley’s design – the Belgians attacked to the end of the match, dominating the game, but were too nervous and chaotic for real efficiency. After the final whistle Liverpool lifted the UEFA Cup for second time.
Final 2nd Leg, Olympiastadion, Brugge, 19 May 1976, att 32000
Club Brugge KV (1) 1 Liverpool (1) 1
11' 1-0 CB: Lambert (pen)
15' 1-1 L: Keegan
Liverpool won 4-3 on aggregate
Club Brugge KV:Jensen; Bastijns, Krieger, Leekens, Volders; Cools, Vendereycken,Decubber (Hinderyckx); Van Gool, Lambert (Sanders), Lefevre
Liverpool:Clemence; Smith, Neal, Thompson, Hughes; Keegan, Kennedy, Callaghan;Case, Heighway, Toshack (Fairclough)
Worthy finalists: bottom, from left: Le Fevre, Krieger, Cools, Lambert, Sanders, Leekens.
Top: Jensen, van Gool, Bastijns, Volders, Vandereycken, Hinderyckx, De Cubber, Pieters.
With the exception of reserve goalie Pieters everybody else played in the finals. Lambert was the big star, but it was really van Gool who shined in the two matches with Liverpool. Experts raved about him at the time, expecting him to become the next great Belgian player – he failed expectations to some degree, yet, not in 1976. The rest of the team was solid enough – Belgian national team players like Leekens, Bastijns, Cools, Vandereycken, finely complimented by three foreigners – Austrian international Eddie Krieger and two Danes – well known winger Ulrik Le Fevre and young goalkeeper Birger Jensen. At the end, Jensen perhaps was the unlucky one – he was rarely used by the Danish national team, making only 19 appearances between 1973 and 1979. As a whole, Club Brugge KV, to give them their proper name, were quite good and 1976 was their year: they won the domestic championship and played well at the final of the UEFA Cup. They arrived – FC Brugge established themselves as the second ‘big’ Belgian club and remained so. Alas, they were outdid by Anderlecht and may be because of that this particular squad is not widely remembered.
For Liverpool – it was second UEFA Cup, the first won in 1973. It was difficult victory and they were perhaps just a bit lucky, but the cup was theirs at the end.
As for Liverpool – go back to the posting on the English championship for the team picture. The second UEFA Cup was an announcement in some way – the great Liverpool has arrived. This was just the beginning of their long domestic and international dominance. Better things were yet to come, but Kevin Keegan already shined and was among the very best European footballers. No longer young hopeful, but firmly established superstar. He did not fail to confirm his status, scoring the two decisive goals against Club Brugge KV and that is precisely what stars must do – decide the outcome of tough games.