LFC historian Steve Horton recalls a previous meeting between Liverpool and Bulgarian opposition
LFC historian Steve Horton recalls a previous meeting between Liverpool and Bulgarian opposition...
4th March 1981 - Liverpool 5 CSKA Sofia 1 (European Cup quarter final 1st leg)
Tonight sees Levski Sofia come to Anfield for the first time, although it won't be the first time we have met Bulgarian opposition. In the early 1980s we met their city neighbours CSKA twice, hammering them 5-1 on the first occasion with Graeme Souness bagging a magnificent hat trick.
CSKA had beaten European champions Nottingham Forest earlier in the tournament, winning both in Sofia and at the City Ground. Forest manager Brian Clough had a warning for Liverpool before the 1st leg of the tie, saying: "If they don't chalk up a victory they'll have problems."
The Bulgarians must have fancied their chances against a Liverpool side playing poorly by their own high standards, having won just one out of the last seven games.
Their side contained a number of internationals including Spas Djevisov, dubbed the 'Bulgarian Puskas'.
The Reds had been comprehensively beaten by east European opposition in Dinamo Tblisi the year before and knew it was essential to run up a big lead at Anfield.
We opened the scoring on 16 minutes when Alan Hansen went on one of his trademark runs out of defence into the opposition half. Once there he passed the ball forward to Souness who moved into the area before scoring. CSKA didn't crumble and pushed Liverpool, but were wasteful with their chances as Ray Clemence twice saved.
The Reds then consolidated the lead just on half time when Steve Heighway crossed to Ray Kennedy. His header was only cleared as far as Sammy Lee who smashed the ball home from the edge of the box.
At half time Phil Thompson went off with an injured thigh and was replaced by Colin Irwin, but the Reds managed to maintain their shape and six minutes after the restart we went 3-0 up. Heighway, who was only in the team due to an injury to David Johnson, was again involved in the build up, laying off to Souness who scored a screamer from 20 yards.
However on 58 minutes the Bulgarians got right back into the tie when Yonchev broke clear to score. The away goal gave CSKA a lifeline, but there wasn't much time for the fans to get worried as five minutes later Terry McDermott got onto the end of Ray Kennedy's ball into the area to restore the three goal advantage.
There was no way back for CSKA now and Souness put the outcome of the tie beyond doubt with an unstoppable shot from the edge of the area ten minutes from time.
Souness's hat trick was his second of the tournament, having earlier bagged three in the 10-1 rout of Finnish side Oulu Palloseura. The win put us firmly in the driving seat for the second leg which we won 1-0 two weeks later.
Liverpool: Clemence, Neal, A Kennedy, Thompson (Irwin), R Kennedy, Hansen, Dalglish, Lee, Heighway, McDermott, Souness.