Matt Elliott

Remembering When City Stunned Anfield In 1997

With a League Cup triumph still fresh in the memory and a maiden appearance in the UEFA Cup appearance on the horizon, Leicester City headed to Liverpool in the Premier League on this day (13 August) in 1997.
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Martin O'Neill - the man who in just two seasons had turned the Foxes from First Division battlers to Premier League competitors - had made just two signings during pre-season at Filbert Street.

While Tony Cottee, Pegguy Arphexad and Theodoros Zagorakis would later follow, City arrived on Merseyside strengthened by only two new faces in Robbie Savage and Graham Fenton.

Despite Leicester finishing ninth during 1996/97 and lifting the League Cup, O'Neill's men were still greeted with an air of scepticism by pundits and bookies alike ahead of their second top-flight campaign.

While pre-season was predominantly a domestic affair for the Foxes, they did travel to Athens in July to tackle Olympiacos, offering a brief change of scenery as O'Neill concluded his side's preparations.

A perfect start to the 1997/98 season came in the form of a routine 1-0 success over Aston Villa at Filbert Street on the opening day, courtesy of Ian Marshall's 37th-minute strike.

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Steve Walsh & Ian Marshall
Steve Walsh & Ian Marshall

Steve Walsh and Ian Marshall cause chaos in the Liverpool 18-yard box.

However, their second challenge was a daunting one as Roy Evans' Liverpool awaited Leicester at Anfield. City's last away success over the Reds came in 1984 - thanks to efforts from Alan Smith and Gary Lineker.

O'Neill's starting line-up for the encounter, meanwhile, included several iconic Foxes favourites: Keller; Elliott, Prior, Walsh; Kåmark, Izzet, Campbell, Lennon, Guppy; Marshall, Heskey.

Liverpool boasted the likes of teenage sensation Michael Owen, Paul Ince and Steve McManaman, but it was City who took a shock lead inside 60 seconds, with Matt Elliott getting onto the end of Emile Heskey's cross.

In front of a slightly reduced capacity of 35,007 at Anfield, due to the stadium's renovation, the locals naturally were becoming frustrated by the visitors from Leicester as their lead remained intact until the latter moments.

The script seemed to be written for a late Liverpool leveller, with Evans' men piling on the pressure, but with the Foxes now shooting towards the Kop, O'Neill's odds-defying side hit the Merseyside giants on the break.

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Matt Elliott
Matt Elliott

Matt Elliott's opener inside the first minute of play was a springboard for the Foxes.

When Steve Guppy found Heskey in the Reds' half, City broke with speed. Heskey, who'd one day play for Liverpool, sent a low drive at David James. Although the stopper was able to save it, there was Fenton to apply a finish. Anfield could hardly believe it as Leicester toasted their second goal of the afternoon. The home side did make it uncomfortable for City, though, as Ince halved the deficit two minutes later, but the Foxes held out for a big three points.

Despite the claims of their critics that Leicester would struggle in their second Premier League season, the Filbert Street outfit had taken maximum points from their first two games, including a scalp at Liverpool.

In the end, the Foxes would conclude the 1997/98 campaign with another top-10 finish in the top flight, but their European adventure came to a close early on with a two-legged defeat by Atlético Madrid in September.

Nevertheless, O'Neill was building a side who would continue to upset the league's biggest clubs and more silverware seemed entirely possible...

Leicester City Crest

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