A seven-goal thriller and a dramatic 4-3 win over Newcastle led to only one question back in 1997, who said lightning never strikes the same place twice?
Anfield is playing host to the Monday night clash, 341 days after the two teams played out the Premier League‘s greatest-ever game.
There was no way this would replicate the iconic and breathtaking 4-3 spectacle, a sequel could not possibly be on the cards. Well, we had to think again.
Dalglish & ‘abject’ Newcastle
The cast members were not quite the same from 11 months previous but they each had a similar dramatic script on hand and delivered Oscar worthy performances.
In 1996, the two traded goals in a breathless 90-minute encounter and while there would be no Kevin Keegan slumping over the advertising hoardings this time, Dalglish did have a shirt thrown in his face by a disgruntled fan.
It came after the Reds raced into a three-goal advantage in 42 exhilarating first-half minutes, with the hosts punishing Newcastle‘s pragmatism in the absence of spearhead Alan Shearer.
Steve McManaman, wearing Dalglish’s iconic No. 7, got the scoring underway in the 29th minute, a poised finish on the turn in front of a jubilant Anfield Road End.
The goal had been brewing and merely 70 seconds later, Patrik Berger had the ball in the back of the net after reacting first to Robbie Fowler’s shot ricocheting off the upright. 2-0 Liverpool.
Liverpool XI: James; Kvarme, Wright, Matteo, Bjornebye; McManaman, Barnes, Redknapp, Berger; Fowler
Slicing through Newcastle with ease, Liverpool proved too much for the Magpies, who the Press Association assessed as having “showed a defeatist attitude that was unprecedented in Keegan’s reign.”
But Evans’ side were not done compounding the visitor’s woes, with Fowler adding the finishing touches to a stunning half of football with a first-time finish between the two centre-backs.
Toothless and discombobulated, a fan made Dalglish aware of his disgruntlement after running down the touchline and flinging his shirt in the manager’s face – talk about a lack of security.
Three-nil up and Newcastle described as having “the most abject 75 minutes anyone can remember,” where’s the drama in that?
Well, Liverpool were involved for one. We can never do it the easy way.
Flair for the dramatics
If you’re into omens, Evans admitting pre-match that he would settle for the same 4-3 scoreline from a year previous only ever meant one thing – he would get what he asked for.
Though, he certainly got more than he bargained for.
With a three-goal advantage under the lights at Anfield, the Reds were firmly in control until Keith Gillespie conjured a goal out of nothing in the 71st minute.
Only then did Dalglish’s side “rediscover their pride and passion,” with that glimmer of hope enough to punish Jamie Redknapp’s carelessness thanks to Faustino Asprilla’s lob over David James.
The scoreboard now read 3-2 with only three minutes remaining, surely enough for Liverpool to see it out. Surely…
Anfield was desperately calling out for the final whistle and you can imagine the air being sucked from their lungs as Warren Barton trickled the ball into the back of the net for 3-3.
Disbelief was in the air, for Liverpool and Newcastle fans alike. From a comfortable advantage to equal footing, James lay in shock on the turf and he was not the only one with his head in his hands.
But football is a funny old game, isn’t it. It’s never over until that final whistle rings out.
And just as they did in 1996, Liverpool scored the winner in the 90th minute to take the wind out of Newcastle‘s sails again – with Fowler the hero this time with a near-post header.
Outjumping everyone, Fowler met Stig Inge Bjornebye’s cross with the desperation you crave from the players with the game on the line. 4-3 Liverpool. We had been here before.
The breathless victory ensured Dalglish’s winless run at Anfield as a visiting manager continued and all but snuffed out their title ambitions, as the Reds moved to within a point of Man United.
In the end, just two victories from Liverpool’s subsequent final nine games of 1996/97 put them out of the reckoning as they finished level with Newcastle on 68 points – seven points adrift of United.
This classic with Newcastle though, at least sparked some hope. The sequel delivered and, thankfully, the final plot twist remained with the Reds.
They say history doesn’t repeat itself, but Liverpool, Newcastle and Anfield can certainly testify to the contrary. Lightning, in fact, can strike the same place twice.