Flashback to Liverpool's first European Cup triumph in 1977

May 25 is a significant date in Liverpool's history -- it is a date synonymous with the club lifting the European Cup on two separate occasions.

In 2005, Liverpool produced one of football's most famous comebacks to win the Champions League, but it is also four decades on since they won the European Cup for the very first time.

On the 40th anniversary of Liverpool's win over Borussia Monchengladbach at Rome's Stadio Olimpico, ESPN FC looks at the importance of the victory and just how it laid the foundations for further success in European competition.

The road to the final

With no group stage in its format, the European Cup was a notoriously difficult competition to navigate. One poor performance for 90 minutes and you could find yourselves on the brink of elimination. But Liverpool's road to the competition's finale in 1977 was relatively straightforward. In eight ties they scored 19 goals, conceding just four goals as they beat Northern Irish side Crusaders, Trabzonspor of Turkey, French club Saint-Etienne and Swiss outfit FC Zurich en route to the final

Meanwhile, Monchengladbach's path to final was more testing. They beat Austria Vienna and Torino before meeting Club Brugge, who had just taken down Real Madrid, in the quarterfinals. They edged past the Belgian side but were paired with Dynamo Kiev in the semis, with the Ukrainian outfit having just beaten three-time defending champions Bayern Munich. However, a 2-0 win in the second leg overturned a one-goal deficit to put Gladbach, like Liverpool, into their first ever European Cup final.

Both Liverpool and Monchengladbach entered the final as champions of their domestic league, each retaining their respective title from the previous year that qualified them for the 1976-77 European Cup.

The teams

The clear star of Bob Paisley's Liverpool side was Kevin Keegan. Having agreed with the club that the 1977 season would be his last at Anfield, the European Cup final turned out to be his last appearance in Liverpool red. The No. 7 was one of the best players in the world at the time and would be joining Hamburg for £500,000 soon after the final in Rome. Keegan finished as runner-up in the 1977 Ballon d'Or before winning it in 1978 and 1979 while in Germany.

Meanwhile, the player who actually beat Keegan to the 1977 Ballon d'Or award was Gladbach's Danish striker Allan Simonsen. The Gladbach team also contained players who were prominent Germany internationals, like Berti Vogts, Rainer Bonhof, Uli Stielike and Jupp Heynckes.

Liverpool: Clemence, Neal, Jones, Smith, Kennedy, Hughes (c), Keegan, Case, Heighway, Callaghan, McDermott.

Gladbach: Kneib, Vogts (c), Klinkhammer, Wittkamp, Bonhof, Wohlers, Simonsen, Wimmer, Stielike, Schaffer, Heynckes.

The match

"Walking out into the Olympic Stadium sent a shiver down your spine, even an hour-and-a-half before kick-off," midfielder Terry McDermott has said of the occasion. Liverpool seemingly conquered Rome for the day, with Gladbach's fans well outnumbered by those who had travelled from Merseyside.

Liverpool had lost the FA Cup final to Manchester United the previous weekend, but were not to be denied another honour, and became just the second English side to win the European Cup.

Gladbach were thwarted by Paisley's well-drilled tactics and failed to cause Liverpool too many problems. Despite equalising in the second half, Simonsen was kept relatively quiet, while Keegan led the frontline effectively in his finale.

Goals from McDermott, Tommy Smith and Phil Neal ultimately saw the Reds run out comfortable 3-1 winners. From the Stadio Olimpico, the Liverpool Echo's Michael Charters wrote: "They won a victory on a foreign field which makes them, in my view, the finest club side England has ever seen."

The reaction

Liverpool captain Emlyn Hughes lifted the trophy before parading it around on a lap of honour. The players then duly celebrated their achievement, while Keegan returned home with a black eye.

In his autobiography, striker Jimmy Case put to bed a myth that he gave Keegan the black eye for not trying in the FA Cup final in order to save himself for the Rome occasion.

"The truth is, it was an accident," Case writes. "The morning after the European Cup final some of the press lads were milling around the hotel pool.

"We didn't always get on with the press, especially the London boys, because they only ever came to see us get beat.

"Anyway, some of the lads grabbed hold of one of them, it might have been Jeff Powell or Steve Currie, I can't really remember, and they decided to throw him in the swimming pool and, as it was kicking off, Phil Neal's elbow came up and caught Kevin in the eye. It was as simple as that."

What happened next?

The 1977 triumph did, indeed, kickstart Liverpool's success at the top of European football.

Liverpool held onto the European Cup the following year by beating Brugge, with Kenny Dalglish scoring the winner at Wembley. Following Keegan's departure, Liverpool signed Dalglish as his replacement from Celtic for a British-record transfer fee. The Scot would go on to become arguably the best player in Liverpool's history, and is soon to have a stand at Anfield named after him.

Their third European Cup in the space of five seasons was delivered in 1981 after they beat Real Madrid in Paris. The success also continued after Paisley retired. Liverpool's famous boot room culture within the core coaching staff of the time allowed for Joe Fagan to be promoted and pick up the reigns seamlessly.

Liverpool returned to Rome for a European Cup final in 1984 to face Roma in their own backyard, winning the club's fourth title on penalties. They then returned to the final the year after, but lost to Juventus in a final that is overshadowed by the death of 39 spectators. Following the Heysel Stadium disaster, the Football Association placed a ban on English clubs competing in Europe, which was in place until 1990-91.

Despite Liverpool's status in European football being well established, it would take 21 years for them to lift the European Cup again, beating AC Milan in Istanbul on May 25, 2005. After winning the tournament for the fifth time, the trophy permanently resides at Anfield.