Stewart ends extra-time thriller

14 March 1981
League Cup final
Liverpool 1-1 West Ham United aet

Ten points clear at the top of the second division, West Ham United's return to the top-flight was imminent but they were to be denied a second Wembley win in 12 months.

Less than a year after conquering Arsenal in the FA Cup final, John Lyall's underdogs again found themselves back at the Twin Towers with another Everest-like challenge on their hands. This time, they faced the high-flying Merseysiders, who wasted no time taking the game to the Hammers.

On a slippery pitch, fierce tackles rained in from all sides, as both teams found themselves with just a split-second on the ball. Sammy Lee's early strike was ruled out by an offside flag against Colin Irwin and, although Dalglish had the only other real chance of the first half, Phil Parkes was equal to the Scotsman's effort.

At the other end, United were restricted to mere breakaways but on one slick raid Paul Goddard volleyed inches over Ray Clemence's crossbar. The second half also remained goalless as Graeme Souness, Ray Kennedy and Terry McDermott failed to create anything for Dalglish while Trevor Brooking and Alan Devonshire equally struggled to carve out openings for David Cross and Goddard.

With the goalless game well into extra time, a Villa Park replay looked inevitable. But, with just 180 seconds remaining on referee Clive Thomas' watch, the game suddenly exploded into life, enabling everyone to forget the previous 117 minutes of stalemate. Alan Kennedy's 20-yard free-kick thundered into the West Ham United wall, felling the gate-crashing Sammy Lee in the process.

As the Hammers' defence raced out, Kennedy drove the rebound back over Lee - lying flat out on the penalty spot - and beyond Parkes. Despite Thomas's linesman declaring that Lee was offside, the controversial Welsh official somehow decided the England midfielder was not interfering with play and duly allowed the goal to stand ¬despite the vehement East End protests.

With nothing to lose, West Ham United simply had to push forward in a bid to rescue an all but lost final and with just seconds remaining, Ray Stewart's free-kick was deflected off the Liverpool wall for a comer. Thomas looked at his watch for one last time as Jimmy Neighbour ignored his aching limbs to race across and float the consequent kick towards Alvin Martin, who saw his powerful goal-bound header beat Clemence only for McDermott to punch the ball out from under the angle.

A deadly hush descended upon Wembley as Ray Stewart placed the ball on the penalty spot for the final act of the final. The Scottish penalty king - who netted 76 of his 86 spot-kicks during his Hammers' career - was the coolest man in the stadium as he calmly went for precision rather than power to stroke his kick to the left of the helpless Clemence.

"I knew the pressure was on," recalled Tonka. "And the ball seemed to bounce 15,000 times before it reached the net but I knew it was in from the moment it left my boot. It was a dream come true!"

Having forced that rematch, Hammers saw Goddard give them the lead at Villa Park only for Dalglish and then Alan Hansen to secure a 2-1 victory for the Merseysiders. Despite that defeat, runaway West Ham United still had the consolation of knowing that they were just weeks from securing promotion back to the top flight.

West Ham United: Parkes, Stewart, Lampard, Bonds, Martin, Devonshire, Neighbour, Brooking, Pike (Pearson), Goddard, Cross.