When second-tier Brighton knocked Liverpool out of the FA Cup | FA Cup

Would lightning strike twice? In February 1983 Brighton had visited Anfield and pulled off the shock of the FA Cup by beating Liverpool 2-1 in the fifth round. A little under a year later the teams were drawn together again in the competition. There were noticeable differences for the sequel. Brighton were now the hosts, but many of the components of their run to the Cup final in 1983 were no longer at the club, including the manager, Jimmy Melia.

Brighton were relegated only a few weeks before they faced Manchester United in the FA Cup final, which they lost in a replay, and the pressure mounted on Melia. Chris Cattlin was drafted in as a coach during the summer – an appointment that Melia opposed – and, five months after he had led Brighton out at Wembley, the manager stepped down.

When Brighton were drawn against Liverpool in 1984, Melia – who was now managing Belenenses in Portugal – spoke frankly about his time at Brighton and did not hold back about the forthcoming Cup tie. “When Brighton forced me out after I’d made them £1m from two cup finals and selling two players, I was hurt,” he said. “I hope Brighton get well and truly stuffed. Not for some of the players like Steve Foster and Jimmy Case, who supported me so loyally, but for those others behind the scenes who got me out.”

Cattlin was the antithesis of his predecessor. Whereas Melia had enjoyed the media spotlight, the former Brighton player adopted a much more disciplined approach. “I’m a low-profile manager,” said Cattlin. “I believe this game is about players and the people who pay to watch them.”

Returning to the top flight was not going to be easy. Brighton had lost Gary Stevens to Tottenham and Michael Robinson to Liverpool in the summer, and were 10th in Division Two when Liverpool arrived for the fourth-round tie. Meanwhile, Liverpool were having a season to remember, even by their high standards. Bob Paisley had left at the end of the previous season but, with Liverpool hunting a quadruple, the transition to the new manager, Joe Fagan, seemed seamless.

It was little wonder that Liverpool were such an attractive proposition for TV bosses, although not everyone was happy that the club were again chosen for the only live match of the FA Cup weekend. “Television is in danger of becoming obsessed with Liverpool,” wrote David Lacey in the Guardian. “Sooner or later someone is going to have to take another chance with a match not involving the interests of Anfield or Old Trafford.”

At least the Brighton tie in January 1984 offered the prospect of a shock. Tony Grealish – one of five survivors from Brighton’s starting XI at Wembley the year before – was confident. “People now know the impossible can happen and I really fancy us to pull it off again. Liverpool must be worried that we are a bogey side to them. Our record against the best team in the country is good.” Jimmy Greaves, writing in the Mirror, was less optimistic. “The way Liverpool are shaping, they could win everything this season – including the Boat Race. But such a blanket monopoly will do blankety-blank for the game outside Merseyside.”

Gerry Ryan and Terry Connor enjoy the moment after their victory.
Gerry Ryan and Terry Connor enjoy the moment after their victory. Photograph: Express/Getty Images

In the end, Liverpool’s double hopes were sunk on the south coast. The absence of Kenny Dalglish, who was ruled out for eight weeks after fracturing his cheek against Manchester United, did not help. Robinson, the former Brighton forward, took Dalglish’s place and had an afternoon to forget.

The ITV coverage started at 2.30pm, just five minutes before kick-off, with the Manchester United manager, Ron Atkinson, assisting the excellent Brian Moore on commentary. A crowd of 19,057 saw Brighton start in positive fashion on a chilly but sunny day at the Goldstone Ground. It soon became clear that Liverpool would not have an easy passage into the next round.

Wide players Neil Smillie and Steve Penney were a constant threat to the Liverpool full-backs Phil Neal and Alan Kennedy, and although Jimmy Case missed out against his old club due to suspension, Grealish and Danny Wilson were tireless in midfield. The Brighton cause was aided when Graeme Souness was forced off with a hamstring injury before half-time.

Liverpool grew into the match but the Brighton keeper Joe Corrigan was in fine form. The 35-year-old made multiple saves from Robinson and his defenders helped out when he was beaten. Just before half-time, Corrigan saved well from Ian Rush and, just as the Liverpool striker – who would score 47 goals in all competitions that season – was about to finish the rebound Steve Foster cleared off the line to prevent Liverpool from taking the lead. It was a crucial intervention.

It was more of the same in the second half, with Corrigan keeping out Rush once more. Gradually Brighton grew in confidence and, when Grealish played a pass over the top of the high Liverpool backline, Gerry Ryan raced through on goal and lifted the ball over Bruce Grobbelaar. Ryan had also scored Brighton’s opener in their win at Anfield the year before and his 57th-minute goal raised the prospect of a repeat performance.

When Terry Connor doubled the lead just a minute later, the Goldstone Ground became a sea of limbs. “Unbelievable,” Moore shouted. “Liverpool are rocking.” Seeing the usually calm and cultured Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson all at sea was a rare sight. Quite what the future BBC pundits would have made of their defending that day would probably not be fit to broadcast.

Terry Connor celebrates after scoring Brighton’s second goal.
Terry Connor celebrates after scoring Brighton’s second goal. Photograph: PA Photos/PA

A shellshocked Liverpool never looked like getting back into the match, with Foster and the centre-back Eric Young performing admirably for Brighton. As the final whistle sounded, fans streamed on to the pitch to celebrate another Brighton triumph. The headline in the Mirror summed it up: “All things Brighton beautiful.”

“Teams lose to them through fear,” said the ecstatic Cattlin after the match. “I made sure that wouldn’t happen to us. We have beaten the best club side in Europe, and beaten them fair and square.” Cattlin did get a little carried away in the euphoria of the occasion, predicting Brighton were on their way to Wembley again, but he could be forgiven for that. “Our chins are on the floor,” said Fagan. “There is no doubt Brighton are our bogey side.”

Liverpool suddenly seemed vulnerable, although, as ever, they kept going. The defeat at Brighton was a tough one to take, but winning the league, European Cup and League Cup was a reasonable way to bounce back.

As for Brighton, they lost 3-1 at Watford in the next round, as distant dreams of a Wembley return evaporated. But the win over Liverpool added a memorable entry to the history of the Goldstone Ground, which was demolished in 1997.

By that time, the club were struggling to stay in the Football League and the thought of beating Liverpool seemed the stuff of fantasy. Yet for those old enough to remember the Goldstone Ground, the Cup wins over Liverpool and the subsequent turmoil at the club, their recent successes against Jürgen Klopp’s team must taste that much sweeter.

Source link