Saturday, September 28, 2013

Liverpool declined to play the Intercontinental Cup and thus nominally the European Super Cup was the the top of the club football pyramid. Top lacking reputation... It was still a challenge without regular date, played near the end of the year, squeezed between domestic championship matches. Liverpool and Anderlecht were the contestants. The first leg was in Brussels. It was December... how important was the 'super final'? It attracted little interest internationally and not only because it was a World Cup year. The participants were interested, but... in England, December is a crucial month: tied schedule of regular and postponed games, cup matches... perhaps the most important month of the year, focusing English clubs entirely on domestic games. For Anderlecht, as almost everywhere else in Europe, December is a break – international and domestic football stops, vacation time for tired teams. Not the best time to compete seriously. Yet, a Cup as a Cup and on December 4 Liverpool and Anderlecht met.

A ticket of the match is perhaps the most valuable memory of the game, for little pictorial material survived. Most action happened in the first half – Vercauteren opened the result in the17th minute. Ten minutes later Case equalized, but the tie remained for ten more minute, until Vander Elst scored a second goal for the hosts. Anderlecht was the more active and determined team and they managed to score a third goal three minutes before the final whistle, thanks to Rensenbrink. 3-1 was a good lead, yet, playing against an Englsih team it was not a guarantee.

A frozen moment of the game suggests Belgian dominance – 4 players in white vs two rather outplayed Liverpool players. It was not exactly that, but Anderlecht were the better motivated team. The second leg was played on December 18th. The hosts were more active, naturally, and scored early – Hughes in the 13th minute. The fragile lead was preserved until the last minutes of the game – Vander Elst equalized in the 71st minute, and mirroring the earlier match, the hosts scored a winning goal in the 87th minute. The super-substitute Fairclough netted the ball – typical of him, but Liverpool lost the final: 3-4 aggregate for the Belgians. Anderlecht won the Super Cup.

As for Liverpool – excuses were easy to find and keep for posterity. They temporary were out of form and also had difficult domestic schedule. They lost Toshack, who left the team earlier. True to a point, but still the real question is were Liverpool really motivated? If not, they were not the first club to neglect the Super Cup – Bayern in 1975 left vivid impression precisely of just going through the motions, but not really interested. Of course, nobody from Bayern ever said they were not seriously playing – nobody from Liverpool said such thing either. And hardly anybody commented on the final – the lack of interest was universal. At the end, the Super Cup may be mattered only for Anderlecht.

The Hungarian poster of Anderlecht has one name misspelled – Johnny Dusbaba's – so here is another list of names:

Anderlecht continued the careful shaping and reshaping of their great squad: Ruiter was gone by now and new goalkeeper – De Bree – replaced him. Ressel was becoming a substitute, but a new Dutch recruit enforced the defense – Dusbaba, formerly of Ajax. It was still Dutch-dominated squad, complimented by the flock of Belgian national team regulars, and the Dane Nielsen. All familiar with each other, comfortable, and in great form.