1965 FA Cup

The 1965 FA Cup final, held on May 1 at Wembley Stadium, was a historic clash between Liverpool and Leeds United, marking a significant milestone in English football. Watched by an impressive crowd of 100,000 spectators, the match ended Liverpool’s long wait for FA Cup glory as they triumphed 2-1 in a gripping contest that extended into extra time. Despite a slow start and initial goalless tension, the match exploded into life with dramatic goals and heroic performances. This article delves into the thrilling moments, key players, and the aftermath of a game that etched its place in football history.

The Path to the Finals

Liverpool’s journey to the 1965 FA Cup final began in the third round against West Bromwich Albion. Roger Hunt’s goal just before halftime and Ian St John’s strike in the 63rd minute gave Liverpool a 2–1 victory, despite a late scare from West Bromwich. In the fourth round, a 1–1 draw at Anfield against Stockport County was followed by a 2–0 win in the replay, thanks to Hunt’s double. The fifth round saw Liverpool face Bolton Wanderers, where Ian Callaghan’s late goal secured a 1–0 win amidst a minor crowd surge.

The sixth round pitted Liverpool against Leicester City. After a goalless draw at Filbert Street, Hunt’s goal in the replay at Anfield sent Liverpool through to the semi-finals. At Villa Park, Liverpool faced Chelsea. Motivated by Bill Shankly’s pre-match pep talk, Liverpool triumphed 2–0 with goals from Peter Thompson and Willie Stevenson. This victory secured their spot in the final, setting the stage for a memorable showdown with Leeds United.

Leeds United’s path to the 1965 FA Cup final began with a convincing 3-0 win over Southport in the third round. They then faced Everton, drawing 1-1 at Elland Road before winning 2-1 in the replay at Goodison Park. A 2-0 victory over Shrewsbury Town in the fifth round set up a sixth-round clash against Crystal Palace, which Leeds won 3-0. The semi-final against Manchester United ended goalless, requiring a replay at the City Ground, where Billy Bremner’s late header secured a 1-0 win. Despite crowd trouble, Leeds triumphed to reach their first 1965 FA Cup final.

Road to Wembley: Pre-Final Context and Preparations for the 1965 FA Cup

The 1965 FA Cup final marked Liverpool’s third attempt to claim the coveted trophy, following previous defeats in 1914 and 1950. In contrast, Leeds United were making their first appearance in the final, having never progressed beyond the quarter-finals before. The two teams had each won one of their league encounters that season, setting the stage for an evenly-matched final.

Liverpool’s league campaign ended with a 3-1 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers, finishing seventh in the league. Leeds, however, narrowly missed out on the league title after drawing their final game against Birmingham City. Despite Manchester United’s loss to Aston Villa, United claimed the championship on goal average.

In the build-up to the final, Liverpool manager Bill Shankly praised Leeds, while logistical challenges almost delayed Liverpool’s arrival at Wembley. Liverpool’s Gordon Milne was sidelined due to injury and replaced by Geoff Strong. Notably, Leeds’ Albert Johanneson became the first black player to play in an FA Cup final, enduring racial abuse as he entered the pitch.

Intense Battles and Early Drama

The opening half of the 1965 FA Cup final was marked by intense battles and early setbacks for both sides. Liverpool’s Gerry Byrne courageously continued playing despite breaking his collarbone early in the match, unaware of the severity of his injury. Both teams struggled to assert dominance, with Liverpool pressing forward but facing resilient defending from Leeds. Numerous stoppages for injuries disrupted the flow of the game, reflecting the physicality of the encounter.

1965 FA Cup

Despite moments of promising attacking play from both sides, neither team managed to break the deadlock before halftime. As the tension mounted, Liverpool’s Geoff Strong and Roger Hunt came close to scoring, only to be denied by Leeds goalkeeper Gary Sprake. The stage was set for a fiercely contested second half as both teams sought to gain the upper hand and secure victory in the prestigious final.

The second half of the 1965 FA Cup final saw Liverpool continuing their relentless pursuit of a goal, with Ian St John and Peter Thompson spearheading their attacks. Despite several promising opportunities, Liverpool found themselves thwarted by Leeds’ resilient defense and the heroics of goalkeeper Gary Sprake. Meanwhile, Leeds sought to capitalize on counterattacks, with Norman Hunter and Billy Bremner leading their offensive efforts. As the game entered extra time, the intensity reached a fever pitch. Liverpool struck first, with Roger Hunt heading in Gerry Byrne’s cross to give them the lead. However, Leeds quickly responded, as Billy Bremner’s well-placed shot found the back of the net to level the score.

Both teams pushed for a winner, with Thompson and St John threatening Leeds’ goal, while Strong and Bremner tested the resolve of the opposing goalkeepers. In the dying moments of extra time, Ian St John rose to the occasion, heading in Ian Callaghan’s cross to secure a dramatic 2-1 lead for Liverpool. The stage was set for a thrilling conclusion as the final whistle approached, leaving fans on the edge of their seats.

The Victorious Return

The triumphant return of the Liverpool team to the city was met with an overwhelming outpouring of joy and pride from approximately half a million fans. As the open-top bus made its way through the streets to the town hall, the city erupted in celebration, with fans cheering and waving banners in honor of their 1965 FA Cup-winning heroes.

1965 FA Cup

Just three days after their historic victory, Liverpool faced Italian giants Inter Milan in the first leg of the semi-finals of the European Cup. Before the match, Gerry Byrne and Gordon Milne proudly paraded the FA Cup around the stadium, further igniting the spirits of the Liverpool faithful. Despite winning the first leg 3–1, Liverpool faltered in the second leg at the San Siro, losing 3–0 and exiting the competition 4–3 on aggregate. While their European journey ended in disappointment, the 1965 FA Cup triumph remained a cherished memory for Liverpool fans, etching its place in the club’s storied history.


The 1965 FA Cup final stands as a testament to the resilience and determination of both Liverpool and Leeds United. Amidst injuries, setbacks, and intense competition, Liverpool emerged victorious, clinching their first FA Cup title. Gerry Byrne’s heroic display, Ian St John’s decisive goal, and the unwavering support of half a million fans encapsulated the spirit of triumph. Yet, beyond the celebrations, Liverpool’s European campaign underscored the fleeting nature of success. Despite the eventual disappointment, the FA Cup victory remained a cherished moment, forever etched in the hearts of fans and the annals of football history, a testament to the enduring legacy of a remarkable triumph.

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By Solomon Githinji

Solomon Githinji is a dedicated writer for Liverpool FC Times, bringing the rich history and dynamic present of Liverpool FC to life. A lifelong fan, Solomon's insightful articles capture the triumphs, challenges, and spirit of the Reds, connecting with and inspiring a global community of passionate supporters.

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