Fifty years ago, Liverpool lifted their first European trophy under the great Bill Shankly. On May 10, 1973, Anfield hosted the first leg of the UEFA Cup final against Borussia Monchengladbach, and the Reds made themselves odds-on favourites to end their European wait by piling on three unanswered goals against their West German opposition. John Toshack proved the ace up their sleeve as he wreaked havoc with his height and pace, and Kevin Keegan scored two goals in the space of 11 first-half minutes. Ray Clemence also made an “astonishing” penalty save from Jupp Heynckes.
Fifteen days later, Shankly and his squad travelled to West Germany for the second leg, where they took a “fierce battering” but managed to hold on to a 3-2 advantage to end their long wait for European success. Liverpool became the first English team to win the First Division and a European trophy in the same season, and captain Tommy Smith had the honour of lifting the UEFA Cup. After such a gruelling match, Smith was “absolutely knackered” and Shankly nearly dropped the cup when Smith handed it to him due to its weight.
The taste for European glory had been quenched but in its place left a hunger to go further and lift the biggest trophy on offer on the continent: the European Cup. Four years later that dream would become a reality. While it would not be Shankly to lead the Reds to that trophy for the very first time, his role in Liverpool’s European heritage is unquestionable. The journey started 50 years ago under his watch with the first European trophy, and now there are 13 pieces of silverware from the continent and the promise of plenty more.