Wounded by the loss of an own goal after settling into the match intelligently, Aberdeen were removed from the European Cup at Anfield last night by a Liverpool side who scented blood and were not slow about delivering the coup de grace.
Dalglish set Neal up for a second goal before the interval and after that the Liverpool matchine switched into overdrive. It was as much as Aberdeen could do to keep Liverpool in some sort of check during the second half as the probable winners of this season’s Champions’ Cup added further goals through the Scots Dalglish and Hansen.
The English champions played some sterling stuff in the second period pinning Aberdeen down in defence with precise and rhythmical attacking football. Quite simply Aberdeen were not at the races in terms of retrieving a hopeless position, but, odd as it may seem in the light of the scoreline, they never totally succumbed in the face of a devastating onslaught.
It might be argued that things would have worked out differently but for that own goal by Miller, for Aberdeen played tidily and professionally in the opening 30 minutes.
Having said that, the combination of power and efficiency in this Liverpool line-up was always likely to win the day and one would imagine that Bob Paisley can only see Bayern Munich in the way of a third European Cup arriving at Anfield.
At least 25 per cent of that possible success can be attributed to a Scottish influence, for Souness, Dalglish and Hansen were all outstanding in this second round, second leg match. Only Aberdeen’s leighton had more right to claim the man of the match tag
Encouraged by a substantial travelling support, Aberdeen attempted to blunt Liverpool in attack by deploying Doug Rougvie as a marker on David Johnson, leaving the youngster Andy Dornan with a freer role on the left. Rougvie had to police Johnson carefully in the early stages as both Hansen and McDermott attempted to release the forward.
An offside decision which set the pattern for the half prevented Scanlon and McGhee from taking advantage of a Watson through ball as Aberdeen moved forward stealthily. Strachan was involved in a positive role and there was a heartening shape to the early efforts of the Scottish champions. A dynamic injection of pace from Doug Bell down the right flank in the eighth minute showed the value of taking Liverpool on.
Jim Leighton, however, had to make a crucial save in the 11th minute from Allan Kennedy. The Liverpool full-back unleashed an accurate drive from 20 yards that the Aberdeen goalkeeper did well to touch over at the near post. Some four minutes later McDermott produced a vicious first-time shot that Leighton managed to beat down well.
So, with the goalkeeper in enterprising mood, Aberdeen looked defensively sound until misfortune struck them late in the half.
Before that McGhee’s lightning break in the 17th minute almost got Scanlon in at the back post. Then persistent runs from the same McGhee which took him past three defenders forced Clemence into a smothering save.
For more than half an hour Aberdeen had done little that was wrong - Rougvie and Watson had done outstanding marking jobs on Johnson and McDermott respectively while Bell and McGhee had shown a pleasing willingness to run at Liverpool.
Cushioned by their one-goal lead Liverpool had seemed concerned only about the threat of Bell and Strachan on the right. Alan Kennedy was taken off 10 minutes before the interval to be replaced by Cohen at left-back.
His effect on the game could hardly have been either more unexpected or dramatic. For it was the substitute who made the 37th minute cross that was nodded on by Hansen for Willie Miller to face the misfortune of putting the ball in his own net for the third time in his club’s last four matches.
Thus was all of Aberdeen’s good work undone at a stroke. And of course, Liverpool scored again before the interval. With just 60 seconds of the half remaining, Kenny Dalkglish produced a touch of mesmerising skill, backheeling a beautiful ball into space behind the Aberdeen defence where Phil Neal had made a run picking up the inspired opening and clipping a low shot past the helpless Aberdeen goalkeeper from point-blank range.
There was little more than pride at stake for Aberdeen in the second half and that almost got a further dent when Johnstone immediately had the ball in the net - but his effort was ruled offside.
Dalglish released McDermott in the 51st minute and Leighton had to save bravely as the Scottish champions battled to keep the scoreline respectable. Leighton was in action two minutes later, palming a piledriver wide of the target as the Liverpool attacks came in unerring waves.
Under such demanding pressure, it was predictable that Aberdeen would crack again and they did in the 58th minute. A Cohen shot came off the woodwork, Lee flicked it back into the danger area and Dalglish whipped the ball gratefully into the net.
In 62 minutes Aberdeen attempted to retrieve something from the tie by sending on Hewitt for Bell who had fallen out of the game.
A thrilling 70th minute move involving two thirds of Liverpool’s outfield players produced an incisive fourth goal. The final touches came from Dalglish and McDermott, who set up another Scot in the Liverpool ranks, Alan Hansen, to grab a goal.
Aberdeen sent on 16-year-old Neale Cooper for the last 15 minutes of the match to gain some invaluable experience. That he surely did as Liverpool finished the tie, almost toying with the Scottish champions.
Liverpool: Clemence; Neal, A Kennedy, Thompson, R Kennedy, Hansen, Dalglish, Lee, Johnson, McDermott, Souness. Subs: Case, Ogrizovic, Irwin, Cohen, Rush.
Aberdeen: Leighton; Dornan, Rougvie, Watson, McLeish, Miller, Strachan, Doyle, McGhee, Jarvie, Scanlon. Subs: Cooper, De Clerck, Considine, Hewitt, Cowan.