On This Day: FA Cup Fifth Round replay Everton 4-4 Liverpool, 1991
“Everyone can remember where they were when” is a tedious, meaningless cliche. Meant to signify a momentous event, actually, everyone can also remember where they were when when scratching their genitals some miserable morning thirteen years ago, along with numerous other insignificances.
Yet what happened in the aftermath of this game is one of those occasions nonetheless, completely overshadowing a ludicrously thrilling evening. The only feasible comparators – Cantona and Cole signing for Manchester United and Kevin Keegan resigning the England job – didn’t really come close.
But first to the fitba. Since winning the title in 1987 Everton had been in steady decline, never competing for another, and were very much the underdogs in this tie, lying twelfth in the league. Liverpool, on the other hand, were three points clear at the top – though curiously, they too were in decline, key players growing old together and youngster and new recruits replacements not of similar standard. This malaise is usually blamed on Graeme Souness, but a simple glance at the line-up below shows that not to be the case.
The first match of the tie was played at Anfield, a fairly tedious affair ending in a goalless draw, and even at half-time in the replay, with Liverpool a goal up through Beardsley, there was no hint of the ensuing mentalness. But shortly after half-time Everton were level, Graeme Sharp converting Andy Hinchcliffe’s cross, and it stayed one-one until the game entered its final quarter, at which point Beardsley scored again.
This time, Liverpool held the lead for only two minutes, Sharp responding with his second on seventy-three minutes, before Rush put Liverpool ahead again on seventy-seven. With time elapsing as is its wont, Everton grew increasingly desperate – so desperate that they threw on Tony Cottee, who, save an excellent debut was largely a waste of the two-odd million that they spent on him. But he managed to snaffle a third equaliser with only three minutes remaining, sending the game into extra-time.
With two minutes left in the first period, a brilliant Barnes drive put Liverpool ahead for a fourth time, and just when it looked like Everton were done, Cottee found a fourth and final leveller. Goodison shook, Liverpool’s players were shaken.
Then, on Friday morning of half-term in my kitchen, Liverpool called an unexpected press conference, Noel White taking the chair: ”Thank you for coming on such short notice. I’m going to read a short statement. ‘With great regret I have to say that Kenny Dalglish has requested to the board of Liverpool to resign as manager.’” Room totally silent, Dalglish took over:
“This is the first time since I came to the club that I take the interest of Kenny Dalglish over Liverpool Football Club. This is not a sudden decision. The worst I could have done was not to decide. One could argue that this decision hadn’t come at a good time but there is no good time in cases like this. The main problem is the pressure I put on myself because of my strong desire to succeed. The stress that comes right before and after games has got the better of me. Some might have difficulty understanding my decision but this decision stands. I would be betraying everyone if I wouldn’t let them know there is something wrong. I have been involved with football since I was 17. Twenty years with the two most successful teams in Britain, Celtic and Liverpool. I’ve been at the front all these years and it time to end it.”
And really, who could blame him? The appalling experience of watching the Hillsborough disaster unfold, attending many of the funerals, and then living with the aftermath, is something beyond the comprehension of anyone not him – and, as he explained, the stress was affecting his health. So Ronnie Moran took charge, Everton won the second replay one-nil – one of the last of its kind, well done football, etc – and in April, Graeme Souness was appointed manager. A month later, Arsenal were champions, and Liverpool’s era of dominance was over.
Everton: Southall, Atteveld (McCall 45), Ratcliffe, Watson, Keown, Hinchcliffe, Nevin (Cottee 85), McDonald, Ebbrell, Sharp, Newell.
Liverpool: Grobbelaar, Nicol, Hysen, Ablett, Staunton, Burrows, Venison, Molby, Barnes, Beardsley, Rush.