Article

Roma v Liverpool: Giallorossi have chance to write positive headlines

23 abril 2018 11:21

For the first time in 34 years, Roma are in the Champions League semi-finals.

The next obstacle in their fairytale run is Jurgen Klopp's scintillating Liverpool and former Giallorossi forward and newly crowned PFA Player of the Year Mohamed Salah.

But Roma's remarkable achievements have also evoked memories of their infamous 1984 European Cup campaign – the last time they reached the final four.

Roma overcame a 2-0 first-leg deficit to thwart Scottish underdogs Dundee United en route to the title decider, which they lost in a penalty shoot-out on home soil to Liverpool at the Stadio Olimpico.

Their exploits in 1984, however, were soured by claims of attempts to bribe the referee – news that was brought to light again seven years ago.

Swept aside by United at Tannadice, Roma needed a handsome victory in the return leg to avoid a shock upset and it came thanks to Roberto Pruzzo's double and a 58th-minute penalty from Agostino Di Bartolomei that sealed the comeback and a 3-2 aggregate success.

There were suspicions about the result and they lingered until Riccardo Viola, the son of former Roma president Dino, alleged his father tried to pay French referee Michel Vautrot prior to the clash in the Italian capital.

"Spartaco Landini, the director of football at Genoa, came to see my father. He told him Vautrot was a friend of his and that we could get at him via another friend, but he would have to be given 100million lire [£50,000]," Riccardo told Mediaset Premium 10 years after his father's death.

"He said a dinner would be organised with the referee on the eve of the game and a signal to show the deal had been done would be demanded. During the dinner, a waiter went up to the referee, saying, 'Telephone call for Mr Vautrot.' That was the pre-arranged signal. Vautrot left the table and when he returned, said, 'My friend Paolo rang and he sends you his best wishes.' Then I got up, rang my father and told him, 'Message received.'

"All this was done because we had a difficult game against Dundee United. Going out of the competition would have had serious repercussions."

The allegations have left a sour taste in the mouths of those associated with Dundee United, especially then-manager Jim McLean.

"Roma were under pressure because the European Cup final was being played in their own Olympic Stadium but it is no excuse to stoop so low as to cheat their way there," McLean said.

"I'm glad the truth has come out and, now it has, I feel for my former players and Dundee United fans who were denied the greatest game the club would ever have played. A European Cup final would have been wonderful for everyone.

"I had angered the Italian press following the first leg when one of their reporters had asked if we were on drugs after our 2-0 win. I joked that if we were I hoped we were still on them for the next game," McLean, who endured a toxic atmosphere in Rome, added. "That translated in the Italian press that we were using drugs and only added to the hostility.

"Walter Smith and our reserve keeper, John Gardiner, took punches to the ribs and back as they protected me from Roma players and officials as I walked off the pitch at the end of the second leg.

"I was obsessed only with our performance, not looking for excuses, so never thought about blaming the referee. I pointed the finger at the players at the time but now I feel cheated although I'm pleased the truth is finally out there, even if it won't do anything for Dundee United in 2011.

"Any individual or club that stoops so low as to go in for this tactic deserves to be nowhere near the game. It's an utter disgrace because I've always tried to believe football is honest."

Fast forward to 2018 and a new-look Roma – buoyed by their shock comeback against Barcelona – stand on the cusp of something great, despite the departures of star quartet Salah, Leandro Paredes, Antonio Rudiger and Emerson Palmieri.

And while the likes of Radja Nainggolan, Edin Dzeko, Alisson, Kostas Manolas and Cengiz Under were not even born at the time of Roma's previous European Cup run, they have the opportunity to well and truly banish the murky memories of 1984.

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