May 22, 1991, Rome – Stadio Olimpico
Roma 1-0 Inter
UEFA Cup, final second leg
“OUR LOVE – YOUR HEART – WILL LIFT THE CUP – COME ON LADS” was the message that met the Giallorossi players as they walked out onto the field for the second leg of the 1990-91 UEFA Cup final on the evening of May 22, 1991. The task ahead was substantial, but not impossible – Roma had to overhaul a two-goal deficit from the first leg in Milan.
In addition to these four banners unfurled by the Curva Sud, if the Roma players were to cast their eyes a little higher into the stand, they would have seen the gigantic letters S P Q R – an acronym for the Latin phrase meaning the Senate and People of Rome. The centre section of the Sud was a sea of purple, with orange on either side. Meanwhile, yellow and red – blending to orange – adorned the Distinti and Tevere sections.
Just like against Juventus in 1986, the stadium was testament to the Giallorossi fans’ unrivalled knack for producing some truly stunning pre-match choreography. The purple – or viola, as they would put it – if you were wondering, was a tribute to the club’s late president Dino Viola, who was no doubt cheering Roma on from on high.
The Giallorossi had enjoyed an incredible run in the UEFA Cup that year, eliminating Benfica, Valencia, Bordeaux, Anderlecht and Brondby on their way to the final. In the first leg against Inter, however, Roma were short on luck and suffered a damaging 2-0 defeat. Indeed, the situation was reminiscent of the Giallorossi’s European Cup semi-final against Dundee United back in the 1983-84 season: Roma lost 2-0 up in Scotland, only to storm back for an irresistible 3-0 victory in the second leg. Lightening was going to have to strike twice if the Giallorossi were to lift the cup.
The Stadio Olimpico was pumping, and the Curva Sud had been full from mid-afternoon in anticipation of the big match. The line-up featured the likes of Giuseppe Giannini and Rudi Voeller, who would be the competition’s leading scorer that year with an impressive ten goals, whilst Giovanni Piacentini and Fausto Salsano came on midway through the second half, with the latter having a great impact on the game.
Roma roared out of the blocks as they often did in those days – a torrent of fire and passion. Ruggiero Rizzitelli hit the post in front of the Curva Sud after just ten minutes, but it wasn’t until the 81st minute that the Italian striker put the Giallorossi ahead. Alas, there was no time for a second – no time for glory, for history to be made.
And so it ended, with the Sud lauding its heroes as it had done before the match. A few days later, Roma won the Coppa Italia and it was Flora Viola – who had taken over the presidency from her departed husband – who raised it the trophy to the heavens. Our love, your heart…
These were days of heartbreak and elation, but nonetheless days we will never forget.