🔴 Fouls, indirect free-kicks and match-fixing: Liverpool vs. Inter Milan 1965 🔵⚫
Liverpool and Inter have met twice in the knockout stages of European football before: 2008 and 1965. The first meeting was in the European Cup Semi-Final and will certainly never be forgotten.
Three days after Liverpool had won the FA Cup for the first time, they were set to welcome Inter Milan to Anfield for the first leg of the European Cup Semi-Final in May 1965.
The Wembley Final saw a 2-1 victory over Leeds United with all three goals in the game coming after extra-time and Ian St John clinched the winning goal with less than ten minutes to go.
Bill Shankly then made one change to his starting line-up, Gerry Byrne being replaced due to the broken collar bone he sustained during the opening minutes of the game and, despite going on to play the whole 90 minutes and extra periods, was understandably not deemed fit enough for the visit of Milan.
So, before the game, Byrne was given the honour (alongside Gordon Milne who was also injured before the FA Cup Final) of proudly presenting the trophy to a jubilant crowd, who had probably not long got back to Merseyside from London themselves.
Out came the Italians, followed by Byrne and the cup and then the rest of the Reds came out of the tunnel into a raucous atmosphere.
The game began and within four minutes Shankly’s side were ahead after Ian Callaghan delivered a precise cross to Roger Hunt who found the back of the Anfield Road End net.
There wasn’t long to wait for more action as a Ron Yeats mistake on the half-way line was pounced upon by Joaquin Peiro who carried the ball into the box to lay it on a plate for Alessandro Mazzola who poked the ball past Tommy Lawrence in goal, 1-1.
Ten minutes before the break the Reds found themselves back in front after a brilliantly worked free-kick. Yeats and Callaghan stood over the set-piece before Cally made a diverting run over the ball and around the wall.
As the No.7’s run began, Yeats passed the ball to Hunt on the edge of the box - a simple scooped pass into the moving Callaghan found him one-on-one past a dumbfounded Italian defence and it was 2-1 at Anfield.
The game was tight and Inter were certainly a tough prospect but the energy of the crowd kept their team going and with 15 minutes left on the clock, Geoff Strong carried the ball through midfield and clipped the ball to Hunt on the edge of the box.
Our second-highest ever goal scorer couldn’t add to his tally as Giuliano Sarti pulled off a strong save but Ian St John’s poacher instincts kicked in and he put the ball into an empty net, as the commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme uttered “That could put Liverpool in the Final!”.
The crowd began to sing “Go back to Italy” as the full-time whistle sounded and it appeared as though they had booked their tickets to San Siro not for the second-leg but for the final as the iconic stadium was set to host both games.
Looking back on the Second-Leg, Bill Shankly wrote the following in his autobiography:
‘There was no joy at the match in Milan’s San Siro stadium. The Milan supporters had been told the fans at Anfield had been like animals because of the noise they had made when Milan had been sent out first and we then brought out the FA Cup. But what did they expect? We had got the cup for the first time and it was the greatest night of their lives. The crowd in the San Siro was really hostile. They even had smoke bombs, purple things in jars that went up in smoke when they burst. One of these landed on the steps and Bob Paisley’s clothes were covered in the stuff.’
Liverpool headed into the lions den, to a boisterous San Siro crowd, as the reigning European Champions looked to overturn a 3-1 first-leg defeat and secure progression to the final within their own stadium.
Mario Corso put Inter ahead in the eighth minute of the game with a well taken left-footed free-kick, Shankly’s players appeared much aggrieved with the awarding of the set-piece and the distance they were asked to move back from the ball - but there were to be much bigger issues to follow.
The players were convinced that an indirect free-kick had been awarded to the Italians and so never expected a shot on goal, a great finish but to many in red it wasn’t a legal one.
As the game continued, Chris Lawler won a throw-in on the right-hand side of the pitch but the decision was inexplicably given the other way and Inter started a quick break down their left flank.
The pass was slightly over hit and out came Tommy Lawrence to bravely collect before readying himself to kick from his hands.
As he bounced the ball, Joaquin Peiro jumped in and took it from him, firing it home to an empty net.
It was as clear as day that it was a foul but the goal was given, leading to huge protests from Liverpool which were largely lead by Tommy Smith who was firmly man handling the referee - Jose Maria Ortiz de Mendibil.
The protests were futile and no change was ever going to be made, Inter were 2-0 up inside 10 minutes and the first-leg advantage had been lost.
Shankly’s men still had time but with the officials making two glaring and disturbing errors inside 10 minutes, there was little hope of a comeback being realised.
The second half provided the only good goal of the game as Giacinto Facchetti put the Italians 3-0 up on the hour mark with a well struck right-footed effort and sucker-punched the Reds.
There was no way back and as the full-time whistle sounded, the Liverpool players again circled the disgraced referee but there was never going to be a change to the fact the Bill Shankly and his team’s greatest hope of winning a European Cup, was gone.
They had beaten the tournament favourites comfortably in the first-leg but were hurt by a cruel refereeing performance that ruined the tie.
Bill Shankly wrote more about the game in his autobiography:
‘Inter beat us 3-0 but not even their players enjoyed the game, and we didn’t think two of the goals were legal. They put an indirect free-kick straight into the net for the first, and the ball was kicked out of Tommy Lawrence’s hand for the second.
‘Afterwards, the people were sweeping the streets with enormous flags and I said to our players, “All right, we’ve lost, but see what you have done. Inter Milan are the unofficial champions of the world and all these people are going mad because they are so pleased that they have beaten Liverpool. That’s the standard you have raised yourselves up to.’
It wasn’t fair and Liverpool had proven themselves to be every bit as good as the best team in Europe, Jose Maria Ortiz de Mendibil never officiated a Liverpool game again.
He was lucky to not step foot on Merseyside as Tommy Smith, the most aggressive of the aggrieved players on the San Siro pitch, later wrote:
‘At the final whistle I went berserk. I chased this Spanish ref screaming "El Bastido" at him, calling him a cheat. A bottle was thrown from the crowd aimed at me but smashed between us, he didn't flinch; I kicked him in the ankle, he didn't flinch. That was when I thought 'he's been got at.' I get so angry just thinking about it.’
It was a huge game for a generation of Liverpool supporters and if it hadn’t have been for the masses of European successes to follow, it probably would be a much more retold story than it is.
Let’s hope for everyone’s sake that there’s nowhere near the level of controversy when the sides meet in February and March but maybe just a little bit of the drama.
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