Top 5 most memorable European Finals between English and Italian clubs

Xavbi Alonso scoring against Milan

There are two European Finals taking place this week, both of which see a Premier League club take on Serie A opposition.

On Wednesday night, Fiorentina face West Ham United in Prague in the Europa Conference League Final before, on Saturday, it’s Manchester City vs Internazionale Milano in İstanbul in the Champions League Final.

This article looks back at the top 5 most memorable European Finals featuring English and Italian clubs.

Liverpool 1-1 Roma: European Cup Final 1984

To date there have been four Champions League Finals contested by English and Italian clubs, the very first of which took place in 1984.

Incidentally, Saturday’s clash between Manchester City and Inter will be the first time such an Anglo-Italian clash has not featured Liverpool.

At the time, the Reds were Europe’s dominant force, having won three European Cups, in 1977, ‘78 and ‘81, as well as the UEFA Cup, ‘73 and ‘76, in the previous decade or so.

Their opponents were Roma, making their European Cup debut, having won a first Scudetto since 1942 the previous season.

Despite this, I Giallorossi went into the final as favourites, almost exclusively due to the fact that the match was being played at their home ground Stadio Olimpico.

Nils Liedholm’s side had certainly made home field advantage count in the semis, overturning a 2-0 first leg deficit to oust Dundee United.

It was discovered two years later that referee Michel Vautrot had been bribed £50,000 by Roma president Dino Viola to given them favourable calls, specifically awarding the Italian club a very soft second half penalty.

In the final itself, Phil Neal broke the deadlock for the Reds, before Roma’s talisman Roberto Pruzzo equalised shortly before half time.

That was the end of the scoring, making this the very first European Cup Final to be decided by a penalty shootout.

What followed is most famous for Bruce Grobbelaar’s wobbly legs, with the Zimbabwean goalkeeper unconventionally dancing on his line, before subsequently saving Francesco Graziani’s spot-kick.

This allowed 1981 final hero Alan Kennedy to step up, and he secured a fourth European title in just eight seasons for Liverpool.

Liverpool 0-1 Juventus: European Cup Final 1985

12 months later, Liverpool were back in a European Cup Final, facing Serie A opposition again, only this final is not remembered for anything that happened on the field.

Juventus won 1-0, Michel Platini converted a penalty, but we’re going to move straight past that and talk about the horrific stuff that was going on all around.

Heysel was a crumbling down, old stadium that was frankly not fit to host such a final, having had minimal renovations done to it since first opening in 1930.

The sections behind each goal was designated areas for each set of fans, while section Z, located in-between, was for ‘neutral Belgian fans’, although this ended up being full of Juventus supporters, with so many having made the relatively short trip from Northern Italy.

Around an hour before kick off, rivals supporters, located mere yards apart, started throwing missiles at one-another, picking up rocks and other debris from the falling apart stadium and lobbing it over the chicken wire keeping them apart.

Just before the match was due to begin, a group of Liverpool fans charged through the fence, with supporters in section Z retreating into a wall, which therefore collapsed, leaving 39 people dead and over 600 injured.

In response to this, the Juve contingent started rioting at the other end of the ground, leading to a huge confrontation with police while the Belgian government declared a ‘state of siege’ in Brussels.

The match was delayed by over an hour, with managers Giovanni Trapattoni and Joe Fagan told by UEFA delegates the game had to go ahead, as abandonment would simply lead to more rioting.

Following the match, UEFA unequivocally scapegoated Liverpool supporters solely, with official Gunter Schneider stating: “only the English fans were responsible. Of that there is no doubt”.

English clubs were then banned from European competition for five years, with it unfathomable that such a punishment would be handed to any major club or league in the modern era.

So, unfortunately exclusively for horrific reasons, this might just be the most impactful and history-altering European Cup Finals of all time.

Arsenal 1-0 Parma: UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup Final 1994

By the 1990s, English clubs were back competing on the European scene again, with Arsenal’s most historic night on the continent coming in 1994.

Having become the first English club to claim the cup double the previous season, George Graham had won all the domestic honours as Arsenal manager, so now had his eyes set on European success.

In the 1993/94 season the Gunners went all in on the Cup Winners’ Cup, with key veteran, injury-prone midfielder Paul Davis used sparingly.

En route to the final, Graham’s team narrowly beaten Torino 1-0 and PSG 2-1, winning both second legs 1-0 at home.

However, they travelled to Copenhagen without top-scorer Ian Wright, who was suspended, as well as the injured trio of John Jensen, Martin Keown, and David Hillier, all of whom would’ve started otherwise.

So, Arsenal kicked off as massive underdogs against a star-studded Parma team featuring Faustino Asprilla, Gianfranco Zola, Tomas Brolin and many more of the world’s best players.

I Gialloblu were widely expected to retain the trophy, kicking off a potential Serie A clean-sweep, with Inter about to win the UEFA Cup before A.C. Milan would hammer Barcelona in the European Cup Final.

However, this was to be classic ‘1-0 to the Arsenal’ stuff, with the underdogs taking the lead through Alan Smith’s stunning strike with 20 minutes gone.

After that, the Gunners barely got out of their half as Nevio Scala’s side laid siege to their goal, but failed to find a way past David Seaman.

xG wasn’t a thing back in 1994, but I assure you that Parma’s figure would’ve been off the scale.

Nevertheless, Arsenal held on, and this remains the Gunners’ most-recent European success, subsequently beaten in finals the following season, in 2000, 2006 and 2019.

Liverpool 3-3 AC Milan: UEFA Champions League Final 2005

There are a few certainties in football aren’t there?

One’s that spring to mind include Sevilla winning the Europa League, Harry Kane scoring a penalty in a North London derby, England underperforming at major tournaments and 2005 appearing in a best Champions League final listicles.

The Saturday’s clash will be the first Champions League Final played in İstanbul for 18 years, and everyone tuning in around the world will be hoping for similar levels of drama.

Back in 2005, Liverpool had managed to reach their first final since the Heysel disaster two decades earlier, while A.C. Milan were heavy favourites, seeking to regain the trophy they’d lifted two years earlier.

I Rossoneri started the night on fire, becoming the first team to score thrice in the first half of a European Cup Final since they themselves had achieved this against Steaua București 16 years earlier.

Paolo Maldini had broken the deadlock in the first minute, before Hernán Crespo’s brace just before the interval made it 3-0, leaving Liverpool players shellshocked and bereft of any hope or confidence.

Steve Finnan was hooked at half time by Rafa Benítez, with midfielder Dietmar Hamann coming on, and this has later been heralded as a tactical masterstroke.

Crucially, Steven Gerrard got one back ten minutes after the break, heading home John Arne Riise’s cross, before Vladimír Šmicer made it 3-2 mere moments later, his shot proving too hot for Dida to handle.

Then, on the hour mark, referee Manuel Mejuto González awarded the Reds a penalty, with Xabi Alonso seeing his initially effort saved, before firing home the rebound.

No one inside the Atatürk Olimpiyat Stadı could believe what they were seeing, with Liverpool having turned 0-3 into 3-3 in the space of six minutes.

This proved to be the end of the scoring, meaning a penalty shootout was required.

Serginho and Andrea Pirlo were Milan’s first two takes, but both failed to convert meaning, by the time Andriy Shevchenko’s effort was saved by Jerzy Dudek, the comeback was complete.

Liverpool 1-2 AC Milan: UEFA Champions League Final 2007

Two seasons later, the pair would meet again in a Champions League Final, although the sequel, as is so often the case, proved to be nowhere near as memorable as the original, certainly for those of a Liverpool persuasion.

This time in Athens, A.C. Milan got their revenge, with Superpippo Inzaghi’s brace securing a 2-1 victory for Carlo Ancelotti’s team.

Three years later, Internazionale beat Bayern 2-0 in Madrid, with this the 12th European Cup claimed by Italian clubs, although no Serie A side has featured in a Champions League Final since then, until now.

Will Manchester City be crowned European champions for the very first time on Saturday night, or will Inter upset the odds and pick up their fourth European Cup?

Before then of course it’s the Europa Conference League Final between West Ham and Fiorentina, and both have the potential to add to the list of memorable finals between English and Italian sides.

2023 Finalists profiles

Ben Gray

Ben Gray

Arsenal fan – follow them over land and sea (and Leicester); sofa Celtic supporter; a bit of a football '"encyclopedia".

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