Five weeks since the disappointing league defeat to Coventry, Liverpool welcomed Brighton to the Greenbank, for a British Cup match. Any thoughts of another home defeat seemed distant as Coach Malone had a full complement of players to choose from. An early start @ 11.30 could only further assist the home side, as Brighton’s 5 hour, 270 mile road trip would surely attest to.
The game attracted the attention of Warrington Wolves coach, Bill Bailie, who was closely monitoring both clubs as potential next round opponents.
What transpired in the next thirty minutes, left fans, players and Coach Malone peering through a miasma of despair for the game of Handball. Despite a wretched performance by the home team there was one beacon of light. It is a much quoted cliché that ‘Handball Goalkeepers don’t win matches, they only save them’ and Tom Eckersall’s outstanding first half performance saved Liverpool from an ignominious defeat.
Defeat after 30 minutes; a strong possibility but Eckersall produced 5 saves of rare brilliance. Two penalty saves and three six metre shots were expertly dealt with along with a string of other saves as Liverpool’s defence were regularly bested by the Brighton attack. This was a game changing performance that gave Liverpool a very small platform to commence the second half.
That first half saw Liverpool’s Hughes perform his own bell ringing performance as he pounded the metal frame of the goal throughout half. Tilly (2), Beremeyer(2), Dauksa and Jankiewicz were the only players to score in the first 30 minutes as Brighton ended the half leading by 9 – 6.
Nothing could raise Liverpool from their slumbers. From a 6 – 6 score line Liverpool slept walked through the final 5 minutes and allowed Brighton’s Jean Legal to score 3 goals from very similar 9 metre jump shots. Poor defending, poor support for the oppressed Eckersall and poor attacking options left Liverpool shame faced as they trudged off at half time.
The first half was punctuated by poor technical mistakes by both sides. However, Coach Malone has to review the 18 technical errors by Liverpool players that caused turnovers to Brighton. This does not include the numerous shots that were, high, wide and very ugly indeed.
HT – Liverpool 6 Brighton 9
The half time period must have been a very difficult time for the Liverpool coach and players. Without Eckersall’s mighty performance this tie could have been over.
So what happened next? Whatever coach Malone said to his players, it must surely rate with any ‘Churchillian’ soliloquy.Tamis scored his first goal of the game with an early penalty and Liverpool close to 2.
Brighton promptly stretch the lead to 3 thanks to another Jean Legal jump shot. This is where the Liverpool ‘Miracle on 34th Street begins’; Liverpool score 8 goals without reply! From a 7 – 10 deficit, Liverpool take a commanding 15 – 10 lead. Flowing, attacking handball, strong resolute defence, re-emergence of Hughes as a natural goal scorer, fast breaks, superb line play by Dauksa. Liverpool’s 8th goal was scored after 32 mins 51 seconds. The 15th, in the 40th minute. 7 minutes of wonderful composed and resolute handball.
Brighton Rocked rolled and reeled but better handball was still to come from the home team. Liverpool proceeded to score 15 more goals in the final 20 minutes, Brighton despite suffering the 7 minute blitz scored 9. It was exciting stuff and Liverpool stretched their lead.
Whilst the goal flurry continued, spare a though for Eckersall. Once again he blunted the Brighton response when on 43 minutes and the score 19-15 he made another great save from a six metre shot. This may not have been the final turning point but it showed the energy and determination now flowing through Liverpool. Hughes, goalless in the first half, terrorised Brighton. 8 goals and quite possibly the best play of the game when breaking forward, Hughes provided an eye of the needle pass to Dauksa who scored from 7 metres and at 22 -16 Brighton were beaten. The final 8 minutes saw Liverpool score 8 more goals, Beremeyer scoring 3 consecutive goals in under 3 minutes.
So a 24 goal second half from Liverpool, 4 times their first half tally. Strong performances throughout helped erase the memories of a parlous first 30. A strong bench with Whittaker scoring 2 and the strength of Dauksa and Tamis ably assisted by Beremeyer showed the potency of a strong attacking game.
Coach Malone delighted at the second half display, must still look to the statistics which showed a further 17 technical faults committed by Liverpool. Overall 35 technicals, when at this level teams average 12. Room for further improvement, but take nothing away from a very entertaining and dominant Liverpool display.
Bill Bailie will have a number of things to ponder on as he looks forward to bring Warrington to Greenbank. Liverpool can build on this performance and it will take two halves of a similar approach if they wish to progress further.