Tomorrow we resume Champions League activity with a tie against Inter Milan so it seems appropriate to go back 43 years and recall the last time we played the Italians in Europe.
This was the only time we were drawn against Inter Milan. It was in the 1965 European Cup Semi Final and the first leg, at Anfield, more than holds its own in the list titled “Great Liverpool European Nights”.
The route to the semi final began with part timers Reykjavik who were easily accounted for, 5-0 in Iceland and 6-1 at Anfield. Next up were Anderlecht of Belgium. This is the game famed for one of Bill Shankly’s psychological ruses. To galvanise his team he belittled the Belgium side calling them “rubbish” in his pre match team talk. However, after the game, which we won 3-0, he described them as “one of the best teams in Europe.” The three goal cushion was more than enough to take into the return game which we also won, 1-0.
The quarter finals saw us play Cologne. This tie illustrates just how much European football has changed over the years. For a start we were in the quarter finals having just played two teams, that wouldn’t even get us past the group stages now! The first leg, in Germany and the return, at our place, both ended up goalless. However no penalties, it went to a third, deciding game in Rotterdam. With the scores at 2-2 after extra time it still wasn’t penalties. They tossed a coin. Can you believe it? At least it wasn’t paper, scissors, stone! What’s more the first toss saw the coin land in the mud, on it’s edge! The second flip saw us calling successfully to set up a date with Inter Milan in the semi final.
First Leg: 4th, May 1965
Hunt (4), Callaghan (34), St John (75)
Inter Milan 1
The timing of this game was unusual. It took place three days after the FA Cup Final, which we had won defeating Leeds 2-1, I bet Shankly didn’t rotate or rest players over the course of these two games! Normally the two European finalists are known by then but here we were going into a semi final on 4th May.
Helenio Herrera was in charge of Inter. He would win 16 major titles as a manager some with Inter, some with Barcelona, Roma and Atletico Madrid. He had guided Milan to European Cup the season before and was later to become the first man to coach three national teams France, Spain and Italy. In the side were players such as Giacinto Fachetti, Sandro Mazzola who were to win “Euro 68” with Italy three years later and take part in the famed 1970 World Cup final against Brazil. They also had Mario Corso who had the nickname ”God’s left foot” which makes change from “Barnesy”, “Smithy”, “Rushie” or “Giggsy”?
Anfield was ram packed. The gates having been closed an hour before the game. Liverpool scored an early psychological advantage by having injured players Garry Byrne, arm in a sling with a broken collar bone, and Gordon Milne parade the FA Cup in front of The Kop before the game.
We had the perfect start. After only four minutes Roger Hunt got on the end of one of an Ian Callaghan cross to volley home. Later Hunt returned the complement. Callaghan’s clever, inventive dummied free kick was eventually returned to him by the striker for him to score. In between Inter had equalised through Mazzola. Liverpool had the ball in the net a third time via Chris Lawler’s long range effort but the goal was disallowed. In the second half we nearly let things slip as Ronnie Moran and Geoff Strong narrowly missed putting through their own net however, Ian St John wrapped things up firing home after the keeper had parried Hunt’s shot.
Shankly choose this game as one of the greatest he had ever seen. Although Inter had a vital away goal, The European Cup final was in touching distance.
Liverpool: Lawrence, Lawler, Moran, Strong, Yeats, Stevenson, Callaghan, Hunt, St John, Smith, Thompson.
Second Leg: 12th May 1965
Inter Milan 3
Mazzola, Corso, Piero
So to the San Siro and an atmosphere to rival The Kop. However, some things were different. The Times reported…
“The San Siro was a cauldron… Liverpool were greeted by fire crackers, sirens, rockets, smoke bombs and a hail of bottles.”
This was to be the least of our problems. Step forward Senor Ortiz de Mendibil, the referee. These days managers frequently blame their team’s misfortune on poor referring and it was no different 43 years ago. However, if the reports are true, then Bill Shankly certainly had real cause for complaint.
Inter first goal was from a free kick, which the referee had signalled as indirect. However, Corso belted it straight past Lawrence and the goal was given. Later Lawrence was charged by Piero which lead to the Inter player kicking the ball out of his hands and scoring. No foul was awarded. Liverpool had a goal disallowed which lead to Tommy Smith threatening to land one on the referee and Facchetti completed the misery with a decent goal after a good move involving Corso and Suarez.
Shankly was extremely forthright in his criticism of the referee believing that he had been bribed. Years later a Times report was to give compelling evidence to prove his suspicions correct. This bitter experience changed his attitude to future European games and he was adopt a more suspicious and less trusting approach. However, it was a lesson learnt and we were to go on the reach the Cup Winners Final (losing to Borussia Dortmund at Hampden Park) the following season which was to be the first of many great, and largely successful, European Finals. After beating us Inter beat Benfica 1-0 to retain the European Cup. They have never won it since.
Liverpool:Lawrence, Lawler, Moran, Strong, Yeats, Stevenson, Callaghan, Hunt, St John, Smith, Thompson