European Champions Cup. In a way, uneventful vintage: no surprises. There was only one major upset. Apart from it, only almost a surprise and half-surprise in the first round and that was all. CSKA (Sofia) barely escaped in Nicosia, losing 1-4. But the Bulgarian champions won the first leg 3-0 and the away goal was enough. That was the almost-surprise, amounting only to notice the improvement of Cypriot football. Olympiakos (Piraeaus) eliminated Ajax (Amsterdam), but such result would have been major news in the first half of the 1970s – now it was only half-surprise. Greek clubs were getting better, Ajax lost its power long ago. Up to the final it was predictable, the favourites getting the upper hand, depending on the draw. Athletic (Bilbao) was out in the 1/8 finals and Benfica in the ¼ finals, both both clubs were unlucky to play against Liverpool and thus underdogs. So, the only real upset happened in the 1/8 finals, where Dinamo (Bucharest) eliminated Hamburger SV after winning at home 3-0 and losing in Hamburg 2-3. Romanian football was rising, although not yet ready to really challenge the status quo. Dinamo went strait to the ½ finals, but Liverpool was too much for them and they lost both legs. Meantime, AC Roma had splendid campaign, was the favourite in the other ½ final and prevailed over Dundee United, overcoming 2-goal deficit in the second leg: 0-2 and 3-0.
Thus, the final opposed the best teams in the tournament. There was no favourite, though. Liverpool had fantastic campaign, obviously was in perfect form, and had experience and reputation in its favour. However, Roma not only represented climbing up Italian football and had wonderful team – as luck had it, the final was scheduled in Rome, so there was the huge advantage to play the final at home turf and in front of massive home support. The final opposed practically equal clubs and after lively and entertaining match, there was no winner – 1-1.
Roberto Pruzzo manages to head the ball before Liverpool’s defender reaches it – a rare air-win over British players.
Falcao confirmed his reputation, but luck was not on his side.
Grobbelaar robbed Falcao from a chance to score.
Final, Stadio Olimpico, Roma, 30 May 1984, att 69693
Liverpool (1) 1 Roma (1) 1 aet
13′ 1-0 L: Neal
42′ 1-1 R: Pruzzo
Liverpool won 4-2 on penalties
Liverpool (trainer Fagan)
Grobbelaar; Neal, Lawrenson, Hansen, A.Kennedy; Johnston (Nicol 72), Lee, Souness, Whelan; Dalglish (Robinson 94), Rush
Roma (trainer Liedholm)
Tancredi; Nappi, Bonetti, Righetti, Nela; Di Bartolomei, Falcao, Cerezo (Strukeli 115); Conti, Pruzzo (Chierico 64), Graziani
Referee: Frederiksson (Sweden)
Liverpool: Nicol (missed), Neal, Souness, Rush, Kennedy
First row: Pruzzo, Conti, Nela, Righetti, Nappi.
What a disappointment – losing without losing. Roma played great final, but no matter – the Cup went to Liverpool and there was no consolation. Lovely squad too: the Brazilian wizards Falcao and Toninho Cerezo, great Italian players like Conti, Graziani, and Pruzzo. Almost a discovery, making one wonder why Roma’s captain was never called to play for Italy – Di Bartolomei was terrific playmaker. Not just Roma’s fans felt sorry for this team – the boys played well, but it was clear this was their one and only chance. The big Italian clubs were getting stronger and would not permit Roma to win the championship again. And the stars were getting quite old – it was the only chance for Di Bartolomei, Graziani, and Pruzzo to win a club trophy. So unfortunate, but the ending was fair in a way: unlike Liverpool, Roma assembled its great team from left-overs. Graziani was acquired at the end of his career and mostly because Torino was in decline. Di Bartolomeo and Pruzzo spent most of their careers with Roma, but it was mostly because none was deemed strong enough for bigger club. Conti too, to a point. Tancredi was unable to become regular in Juventus, for there was Zoff. Nice team, but already it was time to rebuild and it was not at all certain Roma could compete with Juventus, Milan, and Inter for top talent – foreigners were another matter, but only 2 were permitted, so there was really no way to reinforce the squad and repeat the success. Unfortunate.
New old European champions, standing from left: Bruce Grobbelaar, Kenny Dalglish, Steve Nicol, Alan Hansen, Michael Robinson, Gary Gillespie, Mark Lawrenson, Ronnie Moran – trainer, Ian Rush, Tom Sounders.
First row: Ronnie Whelan, Phil Neal, Sammy Lee, Graeme Souness, Craig Johnston, Alan Kennedy, David Hodgson.
Liverpool was lucky to win and it is debatable was this vintage equal to the teams of previous years, but there was no denying the uncanny ability of Liverpool to maintain top-line squads and coaches. People, especially in England, grumbled against Liverpool’s dominance, but the policy of the club was fantastic: the consecutive line of coached, grown in the club – Shankley was replaced by his second in command Paisley, he, in turn, by his assistant Joe Fagan, now at the helm. No team was permitted to grow old, aging stars were unloaded, no matter name and status, new wonderful players brought in. Transition so smooth, it was impossible to tell when one great vintage ends and another establish itself. A whole bunch of current players look weaker compared to those they replaced, but it was still a winning squad. Only Phil Neal and Phil Thompson remained from the team of 10 years ago, led by Kevin Keegan, and they were goners now. Souness also was going to be out of the team soon. But Ian Rush was already the great new wonder. Sammy Lee to a point was a copy of Fairclough, the ‘golden substitute’. Most of the team were national team players. The foreign quota was unusual – Grobbelaar from Zimbabwe and the Australian Johnston, but there was an advantage to that: both were natural English speakers, so there was no language barrier. Critics accused Liverpool for having no English players, counting only 3 Englishmen among the regulars, but let’s face it – non-English players had key roles well before this vintage; English football in general was full of Scots, Irish, and Welsh; the great Leeds United was just as Scottish as Liverpool, and so on. It was not Liverpool’s fault that English players were not as good as Dalglish, Souness, Rush, etc. It was not Liverpool’s fault that these boys won the 4th European Cup for club – and England! – and became the second most successful European club after Real Madrid. And by the look of their long and unending run, very likely able to come ahead of the Spaniards. May be Liverpool was lucky in the penalty shoot-out at the final, but what a dominant season they had! The total of the whole campaign was 6 wins and 3 ties. They received only 3 goals and no team scored more than 1 goal against Liverpool. Unbeatable from start to finish!