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Fenway friendly

AS Roma beats Liverpool, 2-1, in exhibition in shadow of Monster

By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / July 26, 2012
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It was a very dark night in Rome when Liverpool won the UEFA Champions Cup on May 30, 1984. The match was played in a tense atmosphere and street fighting followed after Liverpool defeated AS Roma on penalty kicks at Stadio Olimpico.

Fast forward to Wednesday night as AS Roma took a 2-1 victory over Liverpool in an exhibition match before 37,169 at Fenway Park. There was nothing at stake in this match, but the peaceful nature of the event contrasted sharply with that game 28 years ago.

“Unfortunately, I’ve heard talk about it,” Roma forward Alessandro Florenzi, 21, said after scoring the deciding goal Wednesday. “All my family supports Roma, and we all know how it ended up — it was a sad night, some people said it was a tragedy.

“Certainly, it was a game played before the home crowd and it had a very bad ending. But this was a friendly game, a prestigious one, and we gave it a battle and it was a good game and I hope everybody enjoyed it.”

This was a festive night, supporters mixing in the stands, even united in a “USA, USA” chant after Michael Bradley scored a 63d-minute goal to give Roma the lead.

Florenzi upped the advantage to 2-0 in the 69th minute, a point-blank blast finishing a move involving Bojan Krkic and Erik Lamela. Liverpool cut the deficit on Charlie Adam’s left-footed drive from the edge of the penalty area off a Daniel Pacheco layoff.

There were plenty of opportunities for both teams, including a shot off the post by Lamela in the 86th minute, which was followed by “Roma, Roma” chants and answered by boos from Liverpool supporters.

European soccer has changed drastically since the 1980s, illustrated by the fact that both Liverpool and Roma are controlled by Boston-based interests. Both have introduced US-style marketing and merchandising and are also attempting to modernize the stadium experience.

“I would have liked to have seen how it was in ’84,” AS Roma majority owner James Pallotta said before the match. “You walk around Rome now, you can feel the passion, and I can’t believe the fans would have been more passionate than what I see today.

“It’s been a change for the better. You want to have the best of all worlds. You want to have the passion and you also want to have the experience — for families and fans coming to the game, security is not going to be an issue.”

The idea is to modify what could have developed into a bitter rivalry between the clubs. The hope is to have a Liverpool-Roma game played regularly at Fenway.

“We sold this out in record time and, on top of that, ESPN advertised this game more than any game this summer,” Pallotta said. “The best thing would be if we could have if it every two years.

“And the whole city’s taken to it. Just the last two days walking around the North End. The players love the city, they’re shocked at how beautiful it is. They said they were surprised at how clean it was, even though sometimes we might not think so. They’ve loved it.

“Look, a couple years ago the Red Sox didn’t have Liverpool, and there wasn’t any connection here with Roma. Fortuitously, having two of the great brands of the world both owned by Boston groups in Boston, this game was just a natural.”

Both coaches — Roma’s Zdenek Zeman and Liverpool’s Brendan Rodgers — are using this tour mostly for physical preparation. Roma appeared to be ahead of Liverpool in its preparations, but the Reds threatened in the first half as Joe Cole hit the crossbar in the 33d minute.

Roma took control in the second half as Panagiotis Tachtsidis forced a kick save from Brad Jones and Aleandro Rosi shot high from point-blank range.

“Journalists look at the score, but we played better in the first half,” Zeman said. “There was more playing together, the second half a little less. But we scored goals.”

Liverpool, performing without most of its starters, improved in the second half with the additions of Adam and Lucas Leiva to midfield.

“I was really pleased with the game, there were a lot of positives,” Rodgers said. “Obviously, Roma were ahead of us in terms of games, they’ve played four or five more than us. The most important thing for us was physical conditioning and that step up in quality [of opponent] was perfect. The goal we scored was excellent, we’ll improve our defense. It puts us on the road for getting prepared for the season.”

Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at f_dellapa@globe.com.

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