Juventus vs. Roma (1983): A titanic tussle between ruthless rivals

If you’re a fan of Italian football and, like me, spend far too much time watching online clips of old action from the Peninsula, there’s a good chance you’ll have stumbled upon a classic 2-2 draw between Juventus and Roma from 1983.

The footage of this titanic tussle at Turin’s Stadio Comunale highlights two key reasons why we love the Italian game: a technically superb football match combined with the sheer theatre of the occasion.Before kick-off, we’re treated to an interview with the referee in the centre circle – with every man and his dog, some dressed in full military regalia, who don’t appear to have any need to be on the pitch whatsoever – angling themselves to feature on camera. The interview is conducted with the packed slopes of the Comunale (complete with large sponsor boards atop the back rows, hugging the crisp early December sunshine) providing the perfect backdrop.

The man in the middle, Paolo Casarin, is in charge of keeping order as Italy’s biggest rivalry of the era plays out once again. Although Roma can lay claim to being Juventus’ closest challengers in the current era, the rivalry in the first half of the 1980s was far more competitive – league titles were won and lost when i Lupi took on La Vecchia Signora.

To this day, Roma fans spit fury at the very mention of Maurizio Turone’s ‘goal’ against Juventus in 1981. The two sides met in Turin in the third from last round of fixtures in the 1980/81 campaign. Going into the match, Juventus, managed by the great Giovanni Trapattoni, held a slender one-point advantage over their title rivals, who were managed by the Swede, Nils Liedholm. With 15 minutes remaining, and the match heading towards a stalemate, Turone latched onto a knock-down from Roberto Pruzzo and headed the ball into the net, a ‘goal’ that would have made the Giallorossi favourites to go on and lift the Scudetto for only the second time in their history.

The celebrations were cut short, however, when the linesman raised his flag for a dubious looking offside call. The deadlock remained unbroken, and Juve went on to win their final two matches and, subsequently, the Serie A title for the 19th time. ‘Il gol di Turone’ has since become a widely-recognised phrase on the Peninsula. For younger fans of Italian football, Inter and Ronaldo’s ‘penalty’ incident against Juventus at the Stadio delle Alpi in April 1998 – dubbed La Grande Ruberia  – is an event of similar significance.

Following the controversy of Turone’s ‘goal’, Roma had to wait a further two years for their second Scudetto, just reward for an exciting side that included Agostino Di Bartolomei (the Francesco Totti of his day), Carlo Ancelotti, Bruno Conti, the Brazilian Falcao and Pruzzo. This meant that the Giallorossi arrived at the Comunale in December 1983 with the Scudetto badge on their chests. Once again, Juventus – boasting the much-celebrated Michel Platini, Claudio Gentile, Marco Tardelli and Paolo Rossi in their ranks – were their main title rivals.

Roma received a blow in the game’s opening stages when combative midfielder Ancelotti, who would go on to become one of the greatest Italian managers of all time, hobbled off injured. There were no fancy medical carts or high-tech stretchers present in those days – Ancelotti was ably assisted by a club doctor in full suit, and a member of staff clad in an iconic, Barilla-sponsored, club jacket.

Both goalkeepers, Franco Tancredi of Roma and Stefano Tacconi of Juventus, were in fine form during the first half. Tacconi, in particular, excelled when he tipped a long range Di Bartolomei free-kick over the crossbar. The terrific Falcao, who played for Roma from 1980 to 1985, almost gave the visitors the lead before the break, but he wasn’t quite able to finish at the back post following some fine play from his compatriot Toninho Cerezo. Picture

Read ‘Ciao Capitano: The Life and Tragic Death of Roma Legend Ago Di Bartolomei

The deadlock was finally broken just after the hour mark, and it was the reigning champions who took the lead. Collecting the ball 25 yards from goal, Conti – a key member of Italy’s World Cup winning side of 1982 – struck it sweetly with his left boot, beyond the despairing dive of Tacconi, into the bottom right corner of the net.This set-back sprung Juve into life, and the hosts displayed their mettle with two quick-fire goals in response. Firstly, Platini – who won two Scudetti, a European Cup and three consecutive European Footballer of the Year awards in a glittering five-year spell in Turin – levelled the score courtesy of a superb free-kick. The Old Lady went in front in the 72nd minute when Domenico Penzo crashed home a left foot volley from close range.

With the final whistle imminent, and just as Juve looked like striking the first blow in the race for the 1984 Scudetto, Roma hit back in spectacular fashion. A terrific piece of skill by Odoacre Chierico on the right wing, looping the ball over his opponent before collecting it and crossing on the volley, was followed by a first-time overhead kick from Pruzzo, which flashed past Tacconi into the hosts’ net. Pruzzo – who also scored Roma’s Scudetto-clinching goal against Genoa earlier that year – and his teammates celebrated wildly at the corner flag.

Before he’d even left the park, a visibly breathless Pruzzo was cornered by the interview men to give his post-match analysis. Despite his heroics, it was Juventus who went on to win that season’s championship, finishing two points ahead of Roma. The Giallorossi did, however, reach the European Cup Final in May 1984, losing on home turf to Liverpool in a match decided by penalty kicks.

Juventus, led by the magnificent Platini, won the European Cup the following year, beating Liverpool in the final. However, this game will forever be remembered for the tragedy in which 39 people were killed – mostly Italians – and 600 were injured when a wall collapsed in the Heysel Stadium (Belgium) after crowd trouble and poor policing resulted in a surge by Liverpool supporters towards Juventus fans.

For those who prefer their football of the old school variety, the clash between Juventus and Roma in December 1983 had it all. In addition to the action highlighted above, there were the iconic strips: Juventus with their Kappa made, Ariston sponsored traditional black and white stripes and Roma sporting their Patrick made Barilla sponsored yellow and red – with customary flappy collar of the time. The old pentagonal black and white ball in use adds another dose of nostalgia as do the rows and rows of sponsor boards behind each goal – Rifle, Lotto, Motta and Diadora are all present. We’re even treated to a shot of Juve striker Rossi having his boots (Line 7, I believe) tightened with a set of pliers.

Thirty-four-and-a-half years on from this clash, the two sides are due to meet again on Sunday at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico. A repeat score-line would see Juventus secure their sixth successive Scudetto, while Roma need a victory to keep their slim championship hopes alive. If the action is anywhere near as exciting as it was on December 4 1983, we’re in for a treat.

Words by Martin Dunlop: @Dunlop8

‘Martin’s passion for Italian football kicked off with the ‘Notti Magiche’ of Italia ’90 – from Toto Schillachi to Ciao, the mascot. He thinks the San Siro stadium is the finest building in the world!’