21st September 1996
LIVERPOOL (3) 5 (Fowler 15, Berger 42, 49, Myers og, 45, Barnes 57)
CHELSEA (0) 1 (Leboeuf 85)
LIVERPOOL: James; McAteer, Wright, Babb, Matteo, Bjornebye; McManaman, Thomas, Barnes; Rush, Berger (Redknapp)
CHELSEA: Hitchcock; Petrescu, Clarke, Leboeuf, Myers (Duberry); Burley, Di Matteo, Wise, Morris (Spencer); Vialli, Hughes
Both teams came into this fixture unbeaten after 6 matches of the 1996-97 season. Roy Evans’ Liverpool had just beaten Leicester 3-0, their 4th clean-sheet so far. In that match new signing Patrick Berger came off the bench to score twice. He was rewarded with a starting place in this match. Ruud Gullit’s Chelsea had only conceded in two matches, a thrilling 3-3 draw at Highbury. This was 1st v 3rd and promised to be a classic. For one team, it was.
Fifteen minutes into the game and Stig-Inge Bjornebye whipped in a cross from the left wing and found Robbie Fowler at the far post to head past Hitchcock. Fowler had gone close a few minutes earlier, yet Chelsea did not heed the warning. Three minutes before half-time, Dominic Matteo pounced on a loose ball in the centre-circle, burst forward and split the Chelsea defence open as he slipped it to his left where Berger had a free run on goal. Berger went into the area, rounded the keeper and put Liverpool into a 2-goal lead. Chelsea had won once in their last 36 visits to Anfield and were now staring at another defeat. Chelsea were all at sea when Berger fed Bjornebye on the left and another trademark sweeping cross from the Norwegian was headed in perfectly by Andy Myers. Unfortunately for the visitors, Myers was on their side.
Chelsea had made their best start to a season since 1970 but the wheels were definitely coming off at Anfield after just 45 minutes. Four minutes after the re-start and Dennis Wise was caught in possession in midfield by McManaman and Patrick Berger was on hand again to power towards the visitors goal. As Hitchcock came out Berger slipped it left-footed past him and the home side were now 4-0 up. Just before the hour McAteer’s cross from the right was poorly dealt with by Duberry (who’d come on for Myers) and then ball fell to Barnes on the edge of the area. John Barnes then rolled back the years as he met it full on the volley and Frank (I don’t care I won a World Cup) Leboeuf stuck his leg out just to make sure it went in. With over 30 minutes to go Liverpool were 5-0 up.
Liverpool controlled the remainder of the game as Thomas and Barnes ran the midfield and Chelsea were scared of Berger’s pace. Then with five minutes to go Mark Hughes went down under the challenge of Matteo and made sure he fell into the box enough to convince the referee to give Chelsea a penalty.
Frank Leboeuf managed to stop shaking enough to just get the ball past David James, who was almost on the 6-yard box by the time the Frenchman struck the ball. The game ended with some unsavoury scenes as Wise tried to get Thomas sent off and Dan Petrescu bravely threw the ball at the Liverpool man, as his side remained well beaten. 5-1 to Liverpool and they strengthened their lead at the top.
Liverpool finished 4th in the table behind Arsenal in 3rd on goal difference. Chelsea were down in 6th.