A RED MIST DESCENDS
Given Ajax and Liverpool have won 21 European trophies between them, it’s slightly surprising that they’ve only been drawn together in continental competition once before. That was in the second round of Big Cup in December 1966, a point in history when half of the world was fried on stupidly strong acid. That, along with the flowering of a young genius called Johan Cruyff, may go some way to explaining a positively lysergic first leg in Amsterdam during which Ajax went 4-0 up in the first half, forcing Bill Shankly to run on the pitch under cover of thick fog to ask his men what the effing hell they thought they were up to. Shankly later blamed the eventual 5-1 defeat on Ajax, who were apparently “playing defensive football on their own ground”. There was only one Shanks, there’ll never be another.
The second leg at Anfield was much less painful for Liverpool, though a comeback never looked likely. Cruyff and Roger Hunt shared four second-half goals, and when Hunt made it 2-2 with five minutes left, ITV commentator Gerry Loftus exclaimed: “Well, wonders never cease! Miracles constantly happen in football! Could it possibly be that Liverpool could pull four back in just over four minutes?!” That dentist who introduced the Beatles to LSD in 1965 had a lot to answer for. The knock-on effects in popular culture were seismic.
Related: Liverpool anger laid bare over Everton and ‘completely stupid’ Pickford
Memories of that aggregate 7-3 defeat couldn’t come along at a worse time for the modern-day Reds, still reeling from an eerily similar scoreline at Villa Park, and their unfortunate scrape with some local toughs who made Joe Royle’s Dogs of War look like the Lotus Eaters. On Wednesday night in Amsterdam they face an Ajax side in confident mood, having won four of their first five Eredivisie matches, the latest a 5-1 shellacking of previously unbeaten Heerenveen, and yes, The Fiver probably should get round to updating its pop-culture references one day.
Jürgen Klopp is likely to station Fabinho next to Joe Gomez in the centre of Liverpool’s defence, with Joël Matip already knacked after exactly 79 minutes of the brave new VVD-lite era. Of course he is. But it’s not all bad news for Liverpool, who were able to recreate the foggy conditions of 1966 in training by using the thick steam that poured from Georginio Wijnaldum’s lugs as he discussed Jordan Pickford in a presser. All eventualities covered, with lessons learned from history, the odds of Klopp surreptitiously racing on the field in the 39th minute to give Gomez, Fabinho and Adrían some beneficial advice in the trenchant style have shortened dramatically.
LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE
Join Scott Murray from 8pm BST for hot Big Cup MBM coverage of Ajax 1-3 Liverpool, while Simon Burnton will be on hand for Manchester City 2-1 Porto.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“This group showed a flagrant disregard for the rules which are in place to