Kennedy exacts full penalty
David Lacey in Rome
Wednesday May 30, 1984
The European Cup returned to Anfield last night by its most tortuous and nerve-wracked route yet, Liverpool defeating Roma 4-2 on penalties after the teams had fought out a 1-1 draw over two exhausting hours in the Stadio Olimpico in the Italian capital.
Liverpool's fourth triumph in the competition - now only Real Madrid have won the European Cup more times - was thoroughly deserved despite the closeness of the finish. Indeed so superior was much of their teamwork and so obviously greater was their resilience that when the game went into extra time the likely identity of the winners did not take too much guessing.
However, the additional half-hour seemed to be an equal drain on Liverpool's stamina, the inexhaustible Souness apart. A spent Dalglish was soon replaced by Robinson but a decisive goal for either team appeared less imminent as the 1984 final completed its absorbing, if seldom compelling course. The onset of penalties did not fill Liverpool's supporters with fresh optimism, far from it. Liverpool's record from the spot is erratic to say the least and when Nicol, who had replaced Johnston 19 minutes from the end of normal time, put the opening kick wildly over the bar the Roman hordes shrieked with joy. Di Bartolomei, the Roma captain, took the ball off Graziani, who was marching up to the penalty spot, and calmly beat Grobbelaar off just two paces. Neal, the scorer of Liverpool's goal in the game proper, kept them in the tie-break with a modicum of hope - hope which soared when Conti sent the most casual of kicks over the top. Souness gave Liverpool the lead, Righetti and Rush made it 3-2 and now, at last, came Graziani's turn. With Grobbelaar on his knees and starting to go the wrong way the unfortunate Graziani saw his shot graze the upper side of the bar on its way over.
Alan Kennedy, whose goal against Real Madrid won the European Cup for Liverpool in 1981, sent Tancredi the wrong way. The Liverpool players went as barmy as their supporters and the rest of Rome went into mourning.
When everything had calmed down it seemed a wretched way to have decided a competition of this importance. However, unlike Tottenham's victory on penalties over Anderlecht in the Uefa Cup final - hard-won and dramatic though it was - Liverpool's success did not leave one with the feeling that the better side had lost.
To be fair Roma displayed something of the excellent technique with which Italian football, not to mention Brazilian, is readily associated. But for large parts this quality was not matched by their organisation and on its own was not enough to enable them to challenge Liverpool's teamwork and experience to any lasting effect.
Once again Souness was the dominant figure. his authority had been the prime force behind the successes Liverpool had achieved in the earlier rounds against the hostile background of Bilbao, Lisbon and Bucharest. Last night he responded to the flags and fireworks, drums and klaxons of a fiercely partisan, but often sporting, Rome crown with a deliciously phlegmatic performance.
While Liverpool were often able to control the pace and rhythm of the game, they were not allowed to assert themselves in all the usual positions. For example, Rush was well contained by Righetti for much of the evening and Dalglish was unable to find the spark and speed of reaction which earlier this season had still made him such a marvellous player to watch.
However, Lawrenson and Hansen were rarely disturbed in the middle of the defence and even less so after Pruzzo, having brought the scores level at the end of the first half, limped off around the hour to be replaced by the energetic but less accomplished Chierico. From the start the game went according to the plan Liverpool had laid for it. They had to reduce the tempo to the sort of pace that would prey on the already taut nerves of the Roma players. Grobbelaar had to hold a couple of crosses from Graziani early on but this proved to be merely the prelude to Liverpool taking the lead on the quarter hour.
Souness and Lee combined to send Johnston away on the right, his high centre found Tancredi strongly challenged by Whelan at the far post and the rest was a succession of Roman catastrophes. Tancredi dropped the ball, Bonetti tried in vain to head it behind and Nappi's attempt at a clearance bounced off the goalkeeper's back to Neal, the only survivor of Liverpool's 1977 team, and he scored simply.
At that moment the mind was full of 1977 and Liverpool's first European Cup triumph in which Neal had scored one of the goals from the penalty spot. Soon, however, it became obvious that the right back's lack of pace on the turn might prevent Liverpool's success being repeated in the same stadium. Conti switched wings to be able to use his speed to maximum advantage and he was often well supported by Neal's powerful runs from left back.
Neal completed a momentous 15 minutes by being cautioned for bringing down Conti but Liverpool seemed to have survived the first bout of pressure by Roma. Two minutes before half time however, the scores were level.
Almost inevitably the goal stemmed from a movement on the left. Nela gave Conti the chance to run at Neal once more but the right back, with Lawrenson covering him, appeared to be about to avert the danger. Then Conti's first attempt at a centre came back to him off Lawrenson and Pruzzo met his cross with a glancing header which sailed out of Grobbelaar's reach and in under the bar.
The goal could hardly have come at a better time for Roma. They began the second half with the air of a team who had just discovered that Liverpool were mortal after all and it was during this period that the omnipotent presence of Lawrenson became crucial to the English champion's cause. His was the tackle that prevented Nela getting a clear run at goal.
For 10 minutes or so the night was heavy with the combined beat of Italian and Brazilian rhythms as Falcao, with one shot rammed into Grobbelaar's hands from 25 yards, and Cerezo began to look as though they might achieve some kind of parity with Souness and the Liverpool midfield.
However, Roma'a attacks quickly subsided and for the last 25 minutes of normal time Liverpool steadily reasserted their earlier grip on the game. The onset of Nicol gave them a fresh pair of legs and four minutes from the end Dalglish appeared to have sent him in for the winning goal but Tancredi blocked the shot. Ideally and justifiably, the final could have been settled in that moment. Until the penalty competition the rest tended to be a little weary and anti-climatic.
If any player could have won the game for Roma in extra time it had to be Conti as he resumed the teasing of Neal which for some unaccountable reason Roma had abandoned in the second half. How ironical that two of their more effective players should have missed the penalties that cost Roma the final.
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