Monday, April 9 – 1945
Liverpool’s victory over Manchester City was complete in every respect, and right here let me emphasise that but for the super-goalkeeping of Frank Swift, the game’s greatest and most colourful goalkeeper, Liverpool would have won the tie, let alone the match. But for the courage and efficiency of Swift, Liverpool would have won by seven goals, and for many a hectic spell it was merely a case of Swift v Liverpool.
One save off a Don Welsh free-kick was miraculous, and if Frank is in such good form on Saturday then the Scottish forwards are in for an unhappy afternoon. The fact that Frank goes to Scotland is another pointer to Liverpool not only holding their lead on Saturday, but increasing it. True that Peter Doherty will make a ton of difference, but if Liverpool half-backs dominate the centre of the field as they did on Saturday, then it will be all right.
The City were always an attractive side to watch, and their approach work delighted the keenest students, but Matt Busby, Laurie Hughes and Harry Kaye gave them no rest and quickly intervened to close shooting gaps.
Kaye blotted Alex Herd out of the game, and Busby so worried George Smith and King that the imperturbable Jim Harley held them as in a vice. The Reds half-back power took much out of the City attack and the backs, Harley and Jeff Gulliver, blotted them out. It is no reflection on Gulliver – again under the Welsh selectors’ eye – when I say that Harley gave the perfect exhibition. I share with Matt Busby the view that Harley has never played a better game for he was amazing in tackling, power of recovery and exactitude in kicking with either foot.
Hughes rarely gave Billy Williamson any scope, and behind this sure defence, which has yet to concede a goal in 270 minutes of football of the cup proper, Alf Hobson was reliability-plus.
So much for the reasons why City did not win. Now to the reasons why they lost.
The Liverpool attackers were too sharp and alert for a defence too easily unsettled. The City exploited the offside trap to offset the “long-ball-down-the-middle” to some purpose, but once Liverpool decided to hold a second longer and adopt the square instead of the forward pass, that obstacle was surmounted.
Injury and lack of operative space cramped the style of Billy Liddell at centre-forward, but Billy was quick to dart in and make sure that Phil Taylor’s lob shot was a scorer, and later seemed happier at outside-left, while Don Welsh over-powered Eric Eastwood. The switch was a blessing to Liddell who cried out for room, and to Welsh, who had run himself almost to a standstill at inside-left.
Alex Herd might have changed the course of the game early in the second half when he missed an easy chance, but from that point Welsh led the Reds to triumph, getting a second goal after Busby had hoodwinked the defenders by jumping over the ball leaving Don to crack home his free-kick. Then in the last minute, Welsh broke through, and, although Swift saved his shot, Welsh made no mistake with the rebound.
Individual star of the swift-moving, adaptable Liverpool attack was Phil Taylor, who came right back to his best and appeared delighted to link up with the inspiring Busby again. Taylor had a great match, believe me.
Horace Cumner was a potent factor at inside-left without touching the guile of Taylor, and Jack Campbell was fine once he learned that the quick cross was a winner. Liverpool operated as a real team moulded by the genius of Busby, and a credit to Chairman Mr. William McConnell, his directorial colleague and Manager Mr. George Kay.
(Evening Express, 09-04-1945)
Matt Busby, Liverpool F.C. captain.