|Event||1987–88 First Division|
|Date||13 April 1988|
|Referee||Roger Milford (Bristol)|
On 13 April 1988, with the 1987–88 season drawing to an end, Liverpool played Nottingham Forest three times in the space of twelve days. The first game, on 2 April, was a League game at Forest's City Ground, with the home team winning 2–1. A week later the two teams met at Hillsborough in an FA Cup semi-final – this time Liverpool were winners, by the same score. The third meeting was the return league fixture at Anfield, four days later. Liverpool were lying top of the league, with Forest six points behind in third place. Liverpool won the match 5–0, putting distance behind them and their title rivals. Their performance is considered to be one of the best in English football history, and the most memorable from a team considered to be one of Liverpool's best.
Liverpool had finished the previous season trophyless, and lost star striker Ian Rush to Juventus. Manager Kenny Dalglish acted to sign three new forwards – Ray Houghton from Oxford United, John Barnes from Watford and Peter Beardsley from Newcastle United. They joined John Aldridge who had signed in April, and now took Rush's place in the team. The new attacking line-up gelled immediately, as Liverpool remained unbeaten until the 30th game of the season, and had already, by April, scored 4 goals in a match no fewer than 10 times.
Liverpool dominated the match from start to finish, and took the lead in the eighteenth minute. Alan Hansen won the ball in his own half, and played a through-ball to Ray Houghton, who ran diagonally towards the opposition penalty area. He played a one-two with John Barnes, before beating Des Walker and lifting the ball over goalkeeper Steve Sutton under pressure from close range. The second goal also began in Liverpool's half – Peter Beardsley received the ball, and in one motion played in a long-distance pass in front of John Aldridge, who was between two defenders. Aldridge ran onto the pass, and clipped it over the advancing 'keeper from the edge of the area. In the second half, Liverpool made it 3–0, an unmarked Gary Gillespie smashing a John Aldridge cross into the roof of the net from inside the penalty area in the 58th minute. The fourth goal came in the 79th minute. The move started on the left wing, Barnes beat two defenders before approaching the penalty area, and cutting the ball back to an advancing Beardsley, who hit a low drive into the bottom right-hand corner. Liverpool rounded off the scoring in the 88th minute – a long ball from Bruce Grobbelaar was cleared by Steve Chettle, but Nigel Spackman won the ball back as Forest tried to move forward. He continued running into the area and received the ball back from Beardsley, before cutting the ball across for Aldridge to score his second from close range.
John Motson, who was commentating on the game, described it as "almost fantasy football". Liverpool's performance was described by former England international Tom Finney as "the finest exhibition of attacking football ever seen"., while former European Footballer of the Year Michel Platini said Liverpool resembled "a continental team, not an English one". In his 1999 autobiography, John Barnes said it was "the best Liverpool performance he ever played in.
Liverpool secured their 17th league title a week later, with a 0–0 draw against Norwich City. They were denied a double, however, with a surprise defeat against Wimbledon in the FA Cup Final. Liverpool and Nottingham Forest met again in more tragic circumstances a year later, in another FA Cup semi-final which was the scene of the Hillsborough disaster.
13 April 1988
Aldridge 37' 88'
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