The 1976 club season came to a close on a triumphant note for English football as Liverpool clinched a UEFA Cup/League Championship double for the second time in three years as they held Bruges to the draw required to win the trophy.
Unusually the second leg of the UEFA Cup final was the last match of the season, taking place a week after the European Cup final which had seen Bayern Munich beat St Etienne at Hampden Park to clinch a hat-trick of titles, emulating the feat of Real Madrid and Ajax. Both the sides competing in this match would be in the competition the following year, as Bruges had also recently won their domestic championship.
For the England contingent in the Liverpool side, this was a chance to wipe away the disappointment of the previous weekends defeat against Scotland, and no man would have been more desperate to do so than the goalkeeper Ray Clemence. The man who had described his horror moment at Hampden, David Coleman, was on duty again as the BBC provided coverage of the match in their Sportsnight programme.
Coleman produced a classic “Colemanball” at the start of his commentary as he told viewers at home that “if you’re watching in black and white, the teams are easy to identify. Liverpool in their usual red.”
Liverpool had started poorly at Anfield in the first leg, falling two goals behind before producing a classic Comeback, and things were no different in Belgium. Just 11 minutes into the game referee Rudi Glockner gifted the home side a golden opportunity to take the lead. “What’s given? A penalty! Liverpool look astonished” was Coleman’s description of the East German’s decision to point to the spot for an apparent handball. The confidence boosting early save needed by England’s goalkeeper disappeared as Raoul Lambert smashed home the spot kick, prompting Coleman to say“Well Clemence didn’t have a hope with that.”
Liverpool though didn’t wait too long to hit back as the referee gave them a chance, awarding an indirect free kick right on the edge of the area for a high challenge on Phil Neal. There was nothing elaborate about Liverpool’s approach to the set piece, as Emlyn Hughes simply rolled the ball to Kevin Keegan to hit a low drive past Birger Jensen. “He’s done it. That tore its way through” screamed Coleman.
Liverpool could show a bit of craft from a set piece though and they should have taken the lead with a beautifully worked free kick later in the half. Ray Kennedy floated the ball to the back post where it found a totally unmarked Tommy Smith, who had run in from a deep position, but he could only place his side foot half volley just wide of the post.
With Liverpool having secured an away goal, the Belgians needed to score twice to wrest the cup from Liverpool’s hands, and that was never really going to happen, as the Reds sat back and absorbed whatever pressure Bruges could throw at them.
There were a couple of scary moments, but fortunately for Clemence it appeared his luck had turned, or at least Coleman thought it had. Lambert came agonizingly close to putting Bruges in front on the night as he drove in a powerful effort from the right hand side of the area, only to see the ball come crashing back off the post. “Clemence had all the luck in the world there” was Coleman’s reaction.
Clemence was forced into work to deny Julien Cools, comfortably holding a low effort from the Belgian midfielder, and that was to be the last hurrah for the Belgians as Liverpool saw out the remainder of the game to clinch a second European trophy. They would not be back to defend the UEFA Cup as they were about to embark on their remarkable rise to the pinnacle of the European game.