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 By Tony Evans

Roma will want revenge on Liverpool for 1984, Jurgen Klopp must beware

They have long memories in the Eternal City. In Rome, Liverpool are near the top of a long list of enemies; Jurgen Klopp's team are in for a hostile reception in the Italian capital.

The Merseyside club ruined what was supposed to be the greatest day in Roma's history. The Serie A club have only reached the European Cup final -- the predecessor of the Champions League -- once. In 1984, Roma advanced to the continent's most prestigious competition and the final was played in their own Stadio Olimpico. Liverpool, the other finalists, were meant to be witnesses to Roma's coronation but it turned out to be one of the worst nights in Giallorosso history.

The Italian champions were a good side: Bruno Conte and Francesco Graziani were key members of Italy's 1982 World Cup winning team; their two Brazilians, Falcao and Cerezo, gave the team a dash of South American class. Roma took no prisoners, either. Their captain, Agostino Di Bartolomei was a hard man on and off the pitch and was reported to carry a revolver in his bag.

This was Roma's time. They beat Dundee United in the semifinal, reversing a 2-0 first-leg deficit on a ferocious afternoon in the Stadio Olimpico. The Italian side won 3-0 and then jostled, abused and spat at Jim McLean, the Scottish club's manager. Roma were good enough to go through even after the defeat in Scotland but, just to be on the safe side, they bribed the referee, giving him £50,000.

They had little respect for Liverpool, despite the Anfield club's record of winning the European Cup three times in the previous seven years. Their dismissive attitude appeared justified. Joe Fagan took his team to Tel Aviv for a spell of warm weather training before the final; Italian journalists accompanied them.

A week before the showdown in the Stadio Olimpico, the Liverpool players went to a bar in the Israeli city, they played drinking games and things got out of hand. A fight broke out among the squad and Alan Kennedy ended up with a black eye and Ian Rush was given a bloody nose. Teammates were throwing punches at each other and rolling around the street. When the news reached the Italian media, it was assumed these drunk and debauched Liverpool players would be an easy touch.

They could not have been more wrong. Fagan's players were a rugged, experienced group who slept off their hangovers, cleared the air and set about winning the European Cup.

Rome was not a welcoming place for Liverpool and their fans. It seemed every window in the city was decorated with Roma flags; the team were allocated a rutted, untended pitch for training that was so dangerous they abandoned practice. On the pitch at the stadium, their reception was so hostile that some of the players wanted to get back to the dressing room as soon as possible.

"It was the most intimidating sight I've ever seen in my life," Hansen said. "It frightened me how much those fans wanted Roma to win the match."

Graeme Souness was having none of it. If Roma were tough, the Liverpool skipper was tougher. In the semifinal he broke the Dinamo Bucharest captain's jaw with a single punch during the first leg. Neither the referee nor the watching Kop saw the blow. In the second leg in Romania, the Scot had to withstand repeated attempts to injure him.

Souness, whose flamboyant presence earned him the nickname "Champagne Charlie" called the players together and walked straight down to the Curva Sud, where the Roma Ultras gathered. He would not let the team show any fear. "Nothing scared Charlie," Steve Nicol said. "He looked at them straight in the eye."

Now it was Liverpool's turn to intimidate the Roma players. When the referee called the teams into the tunnel before kickoff, the Italian side remained in their dressing room to complete coach Nils Liedholm's teamtalk. Leaving the opponents waiting in the tunnel is a classic ploy to unnerve them. It was a mistake.

Bruce Grobblaar
Liverpool won the trophy but it was a tough game.

The Liverpool squad had adopted a Chris Rea song, "I Don't Know What It Is But I Love It" as their anthem, and they began singing it while they waited for their rivals to come out. Bruce Grobbelaar, the goalkeeper, began beating the song's rhythm on the Italian team's dressing room door.

"Apparently, when their players heard us the colour drained from their faces," Mark Lawrenson said. "We had psyched them out without knowing it." When Roma finally emerged, they were met by a team of wild-eyed, chanting maniacs. "The boys were singing their heads off," Kenny Dalglish said. "They must have thought we were insane." The tone for the game was set.

The match was attritional. Liverpool took the lead in the first half and Roma equalised before half-time. The atmosphere was frenetic: only 8,000 Liverpool supporters were in the 69,000 crowd and the locals kept up a frantic cacophony throughout the 90 minutes and extra time. There was no more scoring so it went to penalties.

The shootout became legendary. Nicol missed the first one for Liverpool but Grobbelaar's rubber-legged antics during Roma's kicks caused Conti and then Graziani to miss. The European Cup was coming back to Anfield and Rome erupted in rage.

In the stadium, the fans piled their banners and flags on the terraces and set them alight. Outside the stadium, they took out their fury on travelling fans and there were numerous stabbings. The effect of this brutalization had dreadful consequences: It changed some Liverpool supporters' attitudes towards Italian fans and helped create the antagonistic and hostile atmosphere in Brussels a year later, where 39 people died at the Heysel Stadium in the European Cup final between Liverpool and Juventus.

There was -- and still is -- lingering resentment in Rome, too. And dire ramifications. On the 10th anniversary of Roma's defeat, Di Bartolomei, the local boy who had come through the club's ranks to become captain and a tough-guy personification of the Ultras on the pitch, committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest. It was a tragic postscript to what was meant to be the greatest day of Di Bartolomei's career.

The clubs met again, twice in quick succession, in the early 2000s in the Champions League and UEFA Cup. Liverpool took four points off their rivals in the second group stage of the 2001-02 Champions League and then knocked Roma out of the next season's UEFA Cup. The ties in the Italian capital were marked by more stabbings and violence. The Eternal City still bore a grudge.

Liverpool and their fans will have to tread carefully in Rome. The pain of 1984 has entered the folklore of Roma fans.

Tony Evans has been a sports journalist for more than 20 years. He writes for ESPN FC on the Premier League. Twitter: @tonyevans92a.

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