European Cup memoriesSealing the treble in Roma's backyard

Published 26th May 2022
By Steve Hunter

Liverpool achieved a magnificent treble in 1983-84, culminating in the European Cup being won in AS Roma's backyard.

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For Boot Room legend Joe Fagan, a man who served under Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley, it was a special first season in charge of the Reds.

If taking over the managerial reins from Paisley wasn’t hard enough, Fagan took the team to new heights as a fourth European Cup came back to Anfield.

This was the season of the first all-Merseyside cup final when Liverpool beat Everton after a Maine Road replay, thanks to a brilliant strike from Graeme Souness.

With Ian Rush scoring goals for fun, the league title was comfortably won, and it meant a treble was on the cards.

The European Cup that season saw how mentally tough and resilient this Liverpool side were under Fagan, with the best performances being reserved for away from home.

After seeing off Danish side Odense BK in the first round, Liverpool were paired with Spanish outfit Athletic Club in their second tie.

After a goalless Anfield draw, the Spaniards were seen as firm favourites, but Rush with a magnificent header netted the only goal of the game.

It was a goal that saw him nicknamed ‘Tosh’ by his teammates, with fellow Welsh forward John Toshack renowned for his headed goals.

Rush was at it again in the third round against a Sven-Goran Eriksson-managed Benfica when his goal at Anfield saw the Reds travel to Portugal with just a one-goal lead. But a brilliant second-leg display saw Liverpool win it 4-1, with Ronnie Whelan at the double.

In the semi-finals, Liverpool came up against Romanian outfit Dinamo Bucharest.

A rare headed goal from Sammy Lee in the Anfield leg again saw the Reds travel to Bucharest just one goal up.

Despite the hostile atmosphere that greeted the team and the inclement weather, Rush netted twice as the trip to Rome was booked.

Kings of Europe: Rome '84

The scene of our first triumph in the European Cup back in 1977, many felt it was a good omen.

Another hostile atmosphere awaited as this time it was in Roma’s backyard and they had Brazilian stars like Falcao and Cerezo, and Italian hero Bruno Conti.

To get the players in a relaxed mode, Craig Johnston came up with the idea of getting the players to sing the Chris Rea song I Don’t Know What It Is But I Love It.

What the Roma players must have made of this in the tunnel as they prepared to walk out is anyone’s guess, but it certainly summed up how relaxed this Liverpool team were.

The Reds got off to a perfect start when 1977 hero Phil Neal pounced to fire Liverpool into the lead, but on the stroke of half-time Roberto Pruzzo headed in the equaliser.

With both teams unable to find a winner, it would come down to penalty kicks.

An eager Steve Nicol went up first for Liverpool – he was actually meant to be second behind Neal – but he blazed the ball over the bar.

After Neal netted his spot-kick, Conti then stepped up and promptly missed, with goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar certainly doing his bit to put the Roma players off.

Souness and Rush then converted their spot-kicks before more Grobbelaar antics on the line led to Francesco Graziani missing, meaning the Reds were one kick away.

Step forward the 1981 hero Alan Kennedy, who at the start of pre-season had actually missed two penalties in a tournament in Rotterdam.

But cometh the hour, cometh the man, Kennedy rolled the ball into the back of the net to make it a fourth European Cup and the treble.

Kennedy did his famous little jig as he went to celebrate with teammates and the jubilant supporters.

Asked after the season what Liverpool’s secret was, the late Michael Robinson summed it up perfectly when he responded: “I think Liverpool’s secret is there is no secret.

“It’s so basic and it’s just honest hard work. No frills and simplicity itself is really the secret.”

Team

Bruce Grobbelaar, Phil Neal, Alan Kennedy, Mark Lawrenson, Ronnie Whelan, Alan Hansen, Kenny Dalglish (Michael Robinson, 95), Sammy Lee, Ian Rush, Craig Johnston (Steve Nicol, 73), Graeme Souness.

Route to the final

First round: Liverpool 6-0 (agg) Odense BK

Second round: Liverpool 1-0 (agg) Athletic Club

Quarter-final: Liverpool 5-1 (agg) Benfica

Semi-final: Liverpool 3-1 (agg) Dinamo Bucharest

European Cup top scorers

Ian Rush – 5

Kenny Dalglish – 3

Michael Robinson, Ronnie Whelan – 2

Sammy Lee, Craig Johnston, Phil Neal, own goal – 1

Published 26th May 2022