As Liverpool prepare for tonight's UEFA Cup tie in Sofia, Steve Horton recalls the Reds first ever trip to the Bulgarian capital
As Liverpool prepare for tonight's UEFA Cup tie in Sofia, Steve Horton recalls the Reds first ever trip to the Bulgarian capital...
18th March 1981 CSKA Sofia 0 Liverpool 1 (European Cup ? final 2nd leg)
This is the third time we have played in Sofia and both previous visits have been to face city rivals CSKA. In 1981-2 we had an acrimonious European Cup exit, but there are happier memories from a year earlier when a solid defensive display helped us on the road to Paris.
Although we took a 5-1 lead into the tie, the Reds knew they had to be on their guard against an early goal, which would ignite the huge crowd in the Vassil Levski Stadium where this week?s game is also being played.
For the players it wasn't the most glamorous of places to go and play football. David Johnson described Sofia as another dreary east European city, while Alan Kennedy lamented the fact he couldn't drink the tea. The Bulgarians were hospitable enough to place an urn in the dressing room but Bob Paisley refused to allow his players to touch it in case it had been poisoned.
The players were keen to get on with the job in hand and in the classic style of Liverpool sides of the time, we silenced the home crowd for the opening minutes by passing the ball around and not letting the home side getting a touch.
In contrast to the four figure following we should have this time, just 150 Reds fans made the trip due to visa restrictions. They still made themselves heard and on ten minutes were celebrating when we struck a killer blow. Sammy Lee went on a surging run only to see his effort hit the post, but David Johnson was on hand to tap in the rebound.
To their credit, CSKA didn't give up hope and were determined to salvage something from the game. Their skill and pace cut open our defence on a number of occasions, with Hansen, Neal and Thompson all having to clear off the line. But the Reds remained dangerous on the counter attack and Souness, Lee and Heighway (on for hamstring victim Johnson) all went close.
In the 80th minute CSKA looked like they may get some reward for their efforts when Case committed a foul in the area. But Clemence guessed correctly and dived to his left to beat away Markov's penalty.
The win set up a mouth-watering semi final clash with Bayern Munich, who we overcame on away goals. Then we clinched a third European Cup with a memorable 1-0 win over Real Madrid in Paris in May.
Liverpool: Clemence, Neal, A Kennedy, Irwin, R Kennedy, Hansen, Dalglish, Lee, Johnson (Heighway), Case, Souness.