"I know I have written many things over the years watching football, but never have I seen a ball burst with the power of a header. Liddell was known for bursting balls with both his right and left feet, but with his head? I guess that's just another bit of footballing history from Liddell, that will eventually have people in the future doubting the power of this man."
Liverpool go into this game second from bottom, while Fulham sit proudly at the top. But Liverpool started against the league leaders in the typical aggressive fashion which has characterised them in most of their home matches this season. Jackson had put a centre against the upright in the first minute. Liddell had knocked all the wind out of Chenhall who had decided to stand in the way of goal and block a shot with his stomach, not the wisest of choices. Saunders and Evans also had shots that struck defenders, Liverpool were apparently trying to knock the wind out of the opposition, by knocking them over like ten pins. Liddell had also missed the target, unfortunately for someone in the crowd. If Liddell keeps on like this, we'll need more St John's ambulance men at Anfield.
Saunders showed coolness and from his pass through Hill's legs Liverpool got away with McNulty tearing down the wing to try a long shot which Chenhall headed out for a corner. Liverpool were getting to the ball just that split second quicker than the opposition, which enabled them to maintain the initiative. Brice was fortunate to find himself with a second chance of clearing after he had unsuccessfully tried to stop Liddell and a moment later he passed back to keeper Elliot rather than take any risks. We had not seen much of the vaunted Fulham attack, though when Stevens switched play quickly with a long cross pass Mitten gave us a glimpse of what to expect when he let fly with a first-timer only inches over the bar. Liverpool's defence also had a narrow squeak, when Jezzard shot and Ashcroft was on the ground. Ashcroft stuck out a foot to deflect the ball and McNulty completed the clearance, by hoofing the ball over 50yds up the pitch. Liverpool served up an entrancing bout of combination passing, which took the ball from one end to the other, with at least six Liverpool players helping, only to see Liddell's bullet header go flying over the bar by inches.
When the ball came out of the crowd the referees attention was drawn to some defect in the ball. Seemingly Billy had burst the ball with his head, so the ref had to call for a new ball. I know I have written many things over the years watching football, but never have I seen a ball burst with the power of a header. Liddell was known for bursting balls with both his right and left feet, but with his head? I guess that's just another bit of footballing history from Liddell, that will eventually have people in the future doubting the power of this man. Liddell missed a great chance only minutes later when Elliot's pass went straight to Liddell, as the Liverpool leader stood on the edge of the penalty area, facing the dead centre of the goal. Liddell was taken completely by surprise and he fluffed his shot, another first. Usually it hit the net, a defender, the keeper or some unexpectant fan in the crowd, but to fluff it was a shock. Even the crowd laughed, it was such a rare event. Deep down they knew just like me, that Billy would get another chance at sometime in this game and that would be that.
At the 14th minute, it was LIDDELL who was the victim of an atrocious tackle, but he stayed on his feet, then after rounding Brice, he also dribbled round Hill and then Elliot. He was faced by an open goal when the keeper decided to make no effort to get to the ball and brought Billy crashing to the dirt. In typical fashion, Billy just picked himself up, dusted himself down and slammed the ball passed the hapless Elliot. Mystery For some unknown reason the Fulham players then decided to surround the referee to complain about the award of a penalty. They must have been of the opinion that fouls on Liddell do not count? A total mystery to this writer. McNulty, Hughes and Lock were doing sound work in the Liverpool defence. When Fulham did come down both flanks, both backs were showing greater speed and smarter tackling than in any games at Anfield this season and were backed up at all times by Hughes. Saunders was also using the ball extremely well when in possession. Three times in quick succession Saunders nipped in to foil attacks with well judged interceptions and tackles.
From a quick throw in, Robson "Toe-Ended" the ball across the Liverpool goal and Ashcroft must have breathed a sigh of relief, when Jezzard hooked it over the bar from less than two feet from the goal line. Ashcroft must also have been thankful when a pile-driver from Robson struck Lock. Fulham at this stage of the game looked worthy league leaders and had Liverpool under severe pressure. So much so that Liddell for some minutes in this period of the game, had been playing a deeper centre forward game than usual, in the style of Hidegkuti, lying well behind his colleagues and pushing the ball through for either A'Court or Evans to run on to. finishing This made Brice's task very puzzling, he was not used to Billy playing this type of game, and although A'Court was showing great speed, his finishing was not equal to the task. Not even Billy could create chances simple enough for the others to finish, soon he would have to revert to his latest position of sole Liverpool "STRIKER".
The most encouraging feature about the first half had been the splendid play of the Liverpool defence in which none had done better than Saunders. The way in which each tried to help the other, was shown when Fulham who had been slightly on top for some minutes, were literally crowded out by seven or eight Liverpool men who had solidly packed the vicinity of the penalty spot, Liddell included. Was it time to see Billy take on a more defensive strategy? You could be hung in the Kop for even thinking it. Ashcroft became a very busy keeper in the final minutes of the first half making several saves, notably from Haynes and Robson. This looked like the best defence Liverpool had had for some time. Solid in every position and prepared to work together in nulling any chances that come along. On the approach of half time, there was a comedy of errors in the Fulham defence, where a clearance from Chenhall hit Anderson and rebounded like a rocket to hit the foot of the post, only for Elliot to stand in total disbelief his side hadn't gone two down. One Nil to the Redmen would have to suffice the crowd this day.
Half time: L'pool 1 Fulham 0
Liverpool started the second half in amazing fashion. Liddell dribbled his way around three Fulham players when he reached Chenhall, who decided to put an end to this run, enough was enough he must have thought and with an almighty kick put Liddell on the floor. Intentions were set early. Stop Liddell and we have a chance, let him run rings around us and we will get hammered. So Fulham had set their stall out, what did Liverpool have in mind. By the looks on Liddell's face when he stood up, we were going to be even more determined to win this game. And on the next attack, Liddell "nutmegged" Chenhall and shot just wide.
Liverpool returned straight back on the attack and Fulham had an even narrower escape when Evans dived full stretch to meet a Jackson centre and head it against the upright. Saunders also had a try and a good one too, and Liverpool kicking into the Kop end were once again on top. A'Court this time dribbled his way through the Fulham defence and tested Elliot with a screaming twenty yarder, but the keeper was up to his task. Fulham were still giving glimpses of their attacking game, which has seen them score 25 goals in the first eight matches of this season.
Haynes looked very tricky and the whole forward line looked dangerous when it got going, moved with precision and balance. McNulty had to receive some attention after one incident that stopped Jezzard from scoring. The game was now opening up and spaces where being found by both teams. A'Court received the ANFIELD ROAR, for a brilliant run of over 50yds, in which he beat four opponents only to shoot wide. Straight from this Fulham came up field and Ashcroft was extremely lucky to save from Haynes. Then it was Liddell's turn, he roasted three players in his own half before out-pacing the back two, only to be brought down again, this time by Hill. They were certainly sharing the fouls on Liddell out. Then came another Fulham attack this time Mitten coming close. After Fulham had been playing in a manner which made the Liverpool supporters uneasy, Liverpool struck again and went further ahead.
On the 65th minute, Jackson laid the foundations of the goal with a cross field pass to A'Court. The winger ran in, squared the ball to Anderson, who looked up and found LIDDELL stood menacingly on the penalty spot ........, BANG, WHOOOOSH, I swear blind I didn't see the ball going in, all I saw was it rebounding off the goal stanchion, it came out at the speed of a bullet, what speed must have it been going on the way in?
Until someone comes up with a way to measure the speed of shots, we can only call it "Liddell Pace". No one can hit a ball harder than Billy, its like comparing the speed of a spin bowler with that of a pace bowler. Fulham once again complained to the referee about the goal. We will never know why, it will probably go down as a complaint because Billy hit the ball too hard, or at least that's what the Kop will say. The referee just waved them away, in a gesture for them to get on with it. That's exactly what they did, straight from the kick-off they went down field and ROBSON gave Ashcroft little chance with the Fulham mans well placed shot. Little interruption at this point. For those who cannot imagine the times we are talking about, just think of this. Robson the goal scorer was none other than BOBBY ROBSON, the current manager of Newcastle. There you go, back to the game. Liddell, Anderson and Jackson worked the ball back down the kop end and when Evans got on the end of the final delivery it was goal bound, only to see Elliot tip the ball over his bar with an amazing save. From the corner, Lawler headed off the line from a powerful header from Liddell, but the ball didn't burst on this occasion, instead it fell to A'Court who centred the ball for EVANS the inside left to head home. 3-1 to the Mighty Reds.
Liddell had been subject to some terrible tackles in this game and was now hobbling quite badly on the left. They may have slowed him down, but they never stopped him, yet another cross was met by Evans and again Elliot made a great save. A through ball by Liddell also saw A'Court going close, but again at the cost of yet another kick as Liddell released the ball. The crowd were getting angry now, every time Billy got the ball, he was being given the same treatment, by whoever was closest. Elliot made yet another brilliant save from an Evans header again. Evans could well have had a second half Hat-trick of headers now. Then on another run (well hobble) from LIDDELL, he passed two players and just got in the box, when down he went. In the crowded area it was difficult to see who had brought Billy down, but the ref made it quite clear that it was for an elbowing offence. Once again the Man of Granite, just stood up, brushed himself down and struck the ball home. No fuss, no picking a spot, no deft side foot, it just hit the roof of the net while the keeper stood motionless. Walking back to the half way line shaking hands I think Liddell had had enough of this game, the ref had seen enough, the fans had seen enough, so the referee put the game into the annals of history, by blowing the final whistle.
OK, Yet another Liddell hat-trick and Billy had enough bruises for a boxer in a title fight, but this victory again was a team victory. This was Liverpool's best display of the season so far, though the score by no means did justice to Fulham. Liverpool played with a spirit and understanding and all did well, Saunders, A'Court, Liddell and Evans especially. Once again Liverpool proved they are able to raise their game, when the task seems hardest. And this game was won in defence as much as it was in attack.
Final score: L'pool 4 Fulham 1
Copyright - Liverpool Echo (Thanks to Wooltonian for the article)
"Billy Liddell, I salute you. You were a true legend. You were my first footballing hero. You were the best of all because of your LOYALTY, you were ours alone. A true Hero. For the likes of me growing up in Liverpool during the late 50s, I am too young to have seen the man at his best, we simply hung onto the stories that our parents and families told, with a determination and gobsmacked awe."