This is Anfield – English version
This is Anfield
Anfield. You just listen to this word and the mind becomes tinged with red, red Liverpool.
On the road from which it takes its name, precisely Anfield Road, stands the par excellence impregnable fortress of world football. To reinforce this concept and print it immediately at the head of the unlucky opponents of the day, Bill Shankly, the manager who made Liverpool win three championships and a UEFA Cup and two FA Cup, Charity Shield and two Second Division, ordered to write all along the side wall of the staircase that leads players in the field “This is Anfield” .
Welcome to hell, well, or something like this.
Season 1991-92. At Anfield, in European Cups matches, only three teams have managed to win against the hosts.
The first of the three was the Ferencvaros, Hungarian team, capable of winning 1-0 in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, the forerunner of the UEFA Cup, in 1967-68. Then it was the turn of the rival Don Revie’s Leeds United on 14 September 1971, that won the first leg of the
Fairs Cup semi-final, thanking to a goal by captain Billy Bremner. Leeds united drew 0-0 and eliminated the Reds two weeks later, in the return match at home.
The last team able to take Anfield was the Red Star of Belgrade, almost twenty years ago: November 6, 1973, European Cup, the team from Yugoslavia wins for 2-1 with the deciding goal by Slobodan Jankovic at 89 that deleted Reds from the competition . Red Star reached the identical score in the first leg, at home. So, since that 1973, no European home has been able to win at Liverpool’s stadium
In March 1992, the English team coached by Scotsman Graeme Souness, a legend for his past as a player in red jersey, is facing for the Quarter Finals of the UEFA Cup an Italian team, come back in Serie A since few years: Genoa.
Genoa is the oldest Italian soccer team, founded by a group of Englishmen who, in fact, translated the name of the city in Liguria region in their language and used the Union Jack colors, red and blue , for the mesh. After a glorious ancient past, with nine winning league
titles, the last of which won in 1923, followed by decades of Serie A, Serie B and some pop to Serie C (the Italian third league).
In 1989, the red and blue team, nicknamed the Gryphon, literally triumphs in Serie B, losing only three matches and conceding only 13 goals in 38 matches played, and returns to Serie A after five years of purgatory.
The coach of that team is Osvaldo Bagnoli, who sensationally led Verona team to win the Scudetto in 1985 coming before the Juventus of Platini. The following season, in SerieA, is settling and ends with the eleventh position in the standings.
The 1990-91 is an excellent year: Genoa is ranked fourth in the league, behind only the cousins of Sampdoria that win championship, AC Milan and Inter. Mister Bagnoli has created a good group, a young team full of talent that plays a simple, but effective, football.
In addition there are some star players, able to give a brighter sound to the team’s sheet music, as the Czech striker Thomas Skhuravy, his partner Pato Aguilera, Uruguayan, and the Brazilian full-back Claudio Branco.
Mario Bortolazzi, midfielder and mind of that team, tells me:
“The two seasons with Genoa coached by Bagnoli were certainly very exciting. At the end of the first one we managed to hit a wonderful 4th place in table, unexpected by all because at the beginning there were some difficulties. But winning the derby against Sampdoria after 13 years gave us the charge for the rest of the league. The team was a mix of well-known players and others that wanted to affirm or confirm their value with the addition of 3 foreigners who helped us, in my opinion, to make the step up . I refer to Aguillera, Branco and Skurhavy. Between us there was a good feeling, even out of the field, and this has helped to strengthen our team. Above all there was a great respect for the coach, who knew how to transmit confidence to us. He didn’t teach so much tactics during the trainings, just a little to give us a clear idea of what we should have done. The squad was made up of 16 players plus a few younger, and consequently always played almost the same people, but the other ones had always to be ready to get in the field if it was necessary. ”
The fourth place means Europe for Rossoblù. It means Uefa Cup.
Before getting to the head-on clash, Liverpool has eliminated, in order, the Finnish Lahti, the French and Austrians of Auxerre and of Wacker Innsbruck, while Genoa got rid of the Spaniards of Real Oviedo, of the Romanian Dinamo Bucharest and of their fellow citizens
The first leg between Liverpool and Genoas takes place at the Ferraris stadium in Genoa on March the 4th, 1992. Two cities by the sea, match on March the 4th: Italian singer Lucio Dalla would have find some coincidences, but that’s another story.
Genoa wins, resoundingly, 2-0 with goals scored by Valeriano Fiorin at 40 ‘and the free kick by Claudio Branco, thrown like a bomb at 87’, the house’s specialty. The British were stunned and amazed leaving the field. Certainly, before the match, they didn’t expect an opponent so determined, aggressive and fast. Let’s face it, the Liverpool players were convinced to walk on the hapless Genoa.
But don’t worry. Anfield is waiting for them. The same Anfield that has permitted them to overturn another zero to two in the second round, against Auxerre, with a mandatory three to zero. Besides, 1992 is the year of the centenary of Liverpool’s foundation, one more
reason to win and to get to arrive to conquer the Uefa Cup. We can’t do nothing but win. We are the Livepool.
This Is Anfield.
March 18, 1992, Anfield. On the cover of the match program sold at the stadium, rigorously red, stand out the title “Liverpool – Centenary Year 1892 1992” in large letters and a photo of the Kop, the famous corner of the home fans, one of the hottest in Europe.
Another way to instill fear, as the opponent’s name and the name of the stadium were not enough. As if 18 years of home invincibility were not enough: a child could have time to be born and getting graduated without ever seeing his favorite team losing a home European game!
No Italian team has never won here. No. It’s the Law of Anfield.
Following that game for the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, that evening, there is Roberto Perrone.
I try to set the match with the eyes of a great journalist. Roberto, do you remember about that Genoa? What type of football did thet play?
“It ‘was the most exciting Genoa I’ve seen in my all life. A well organized team with a 5-3-2 where, as Bagnoli used to say, the back played the defender played the defender and the miedfielder played the midfielder. Everyone played in their specific place.
Anfield Road. What kind of atmosphere there?
“It was the old Anfield, not yet rebuilt for EURO 1996. A pure old British stadium: wood, corroded metal, unique atmosphere. Great supporters, similar to the Gryphon’s ones”.
The evening is one the special ones, the air is the one of an unforgettable night.
Mister Bagnoli in the locker room harangues the troops before the battle.
After almost twenty years since that night, the coach tells me how he prepared that game: “After the defeat in the first leg in Italy, Liverpool had to lead the match. We were aware of the difficulties that we would have found. In the days before the game we didn’t do anything special or different from other matches we played: we just tried to prepare ourselves to play in the way we kne. It was not necessary to tell so many words to charge the team: the enemy was known, its name was enough to charge the boys! ”
Ten minutes after seven in the evening, on the Greenwich zero meridian.
The guys leaded by Bagnoli, on one side, and by Souness, on the other side, have just passed the stairs and they have followed with their eyes the words written “This is Anfield”.
It’s time to take the field. Here are the lines-up.
Liverpool plays with this players, with the numbers from one to eleven on their shoulders: Hooper, Jones, Burrows, Nicol, Mølby, Wright, Marsh, Saunders, Rush, Barnes, McManaman
Genoa lines up on the field: Braglia, Torrente, Branco, Eranio, Collovati, Signorini, Ruotolo, Bortolazzi, Aguilera, Skuhravy, Onorati. Liverpool in full red uniform; white jersey and blue shorts for Genoa. The referee is the
Austrian mister Forstinger.
The rossoblù team has Simone Braglia on goal, who has been Milan’s goalkeeper in the past: a certitude. Central defenders are Vincenzo Torrente and the experienced Fulvio Collovati, world champion in 1982 in Spain. Behind them, as sweeper, the great Gianluca Signorini, captain and leader of the team. Fullbacks are Gennaro Ruotolo to the right and
Claudio Branco to the left, both licensed to thrust themselves forward. In the midfield, the director is Mario Bortolazzi; on his right there is Stefano Eranio, the young midfielder raised in the red and blue youth teams. On the left there is Roberto Onorati who is the only different players from the first leg in which the first-string was Valeriano Fiorin, who scored the first goal for Genoa. The strickers couple is a fantastic pair formed by the Czech giant, Thomas Skhuravy, and the slippery little Uruguayan, Pato Aguilera. The two strikers form a perfectly-matched pair: they mix power, header and athleticism of the Czech Republic with speed, speed of execution and sense of goal of Pato.
Liverpool starts immediately aggressive, having the absolute duty to overturn the score. “We knew that we expected a lot of great sacrifice, that Liverpool would have pressed us in our midfield,” recalls Mario Bortolazzi.
And, initially, it goes like this. Braglia quickly warms up his gloves on a low shot from outside the box by the colored giant John Barnes. Then Ian Rush has a good chance but he shots wide.
There is no time to breath. The Kop sings and screams loudly. The red and blue players are pressed in their own half and they are not able to get out.
“I remember in the first twenty minutes Braglia was very good, he made two or three decisive saves. And then, slowly, we came out ” Osvaldo Bagnoli says.
Saunders makes a mistake, shoting wide from a good position, just in the middle of the box.
Genoa starts off again, at minute 27: Onorati gets the and throws it to Ruotolo on the right. The young winger runs wide and put the ball it in the box. Skhuravy, at the edge of the small box, touches the ball putting it again in the middle, aborting the entire English defense. The ball arrives to Aguilera at the opposite side of the box. Pato, all alone, stops the ball by chest and, with sangfroid, guns down Hooper with a right kick.
This is Anfield. The stadium freezes.
“We are Genoa”, was the huge banner emblazoned Ferraris Stadium in the first leg. Now more than ever it is Genoa.
The right chain formed by Ruotolo and Eranio is once again one of the best rossoblù’s weapons.
Ruotolo himself reminds that team and says:
“What Mr. Bagnoli taught us was to respect our opponents. The team was lined up again with a 3-5-2 tactic: all the players were suited for that type of scheme. This module, that could seem to be defensive, became offensive thanking me, Eranio and Onorati. Gianluca Signorini was the leader of the team, but Bagnoli managed to make us all feel, in a certainway, leaders. ”
Zero to one. Liverpool, for the away goal rule, now has to score four goals to get qualified. But Genoa can not rest on laurels, because the Reds are strong, fearful and they restart to attack even stronger than before. So at the beginning of the second-half the Welsh striker Ian Rush, who has played in Italy with Juventus, scores the draw, after having failed another chance. Pride, character, strength: the watchwords of a Liverpool that doesn’t give up. Giving up doesn’t belong to the Reds, it’s not in their vocabulary.
Anfield begins to believe in qualification and insist to support loudly his favorites. Attacks from all positions, descents along the wings and cross in the middle, repeting shoots: no way, Braglia saves everything and Genoa resists to the siege. Bagnoli’s boys are playing the game of their life: they are making history, even if they don’t’ realize it, and they pull out all the energies they have in their bodies.
And, maybe, even something more:
“In suffering we have given everything – Ruotolo told me on the phone – Although we were tired, we didn’t feel tired in those moments!”
On the 1-1 Liverpool attacksconstantly. Ian Rush is a fury.
But Genoa resists.
Then comes Pato. Again.
“And when it seemed that we had to surrender, a deadly counterattack led by Eranio allowed Aguillera to score the 2-1. And we won!” recalls Mario Bortolazzi, the midfield director of that wonderful team.
Skhuravy makes a triangular meeting, at midfield, with Eranio who steals away to the right and throws a low shot towards the center where there is Aguilera that, as a hawk, goes for the ball and put it in the net!
Roberto Perrone from Corriere della Sera hasn’t forgotten that moments and that match: “I have in mind the image of Aguilera rejoicing and the not rarefied memory of a a great team’s try. Liverpool attacked, in English style, with gusts and cross, but Genoa has never been afraid, and struck back. This was the key of that victory! ”
Fans genoani are delirious. Anfield falls, conquered.
And for the first time by the hands of an Italian team.
The Kop, famous for the chorus “You’ll never walk alone” and for the dedication to his favorites, pays a long round of applause to the players of Genoa after the match. For those who played that game are unforgettable moments: the Reds fans stood to applaud!
However, at the moment, Genoa’s players do not realize the extent of the deed they have made: when I asked Osvaldo Bagnoli if he would have realized what his team had just done, he replied: “Well, the others made us understand what we had done,” meaning the journalists, supporters and opponents.
Gennaro Ruotolo himself mourns his youth of the time: “I was 23, I wish I have had the experience, at that times, to understand the extent of that deed!.”
It does not matter. Those guys made the history of football, that night at Anfield.
Or just a piece.
A piece as long as the wall on which there is written “This is Anfield”.
Emanuele Giulianelli (@EmaGiulianelli on twitter)