As part of our UEFA Champions League final coverage, uefa.com will hear from stars of the three previous Rome showpieces. Here, Liverpool FC's Phil Neal recalls the 3-1 defeat of VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach in 1977.
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In the build-up to the UEFA Champions League final in Rome, uefa.com is interviewing players from the past three showpieces at the Stadio Olimpico. The latest subject in our series is Liverpool FC right-back Phil Neal, who turned out in the club's first European Cup triumph, against VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach, in 1977.
Liverpool went into the game as UEFA Cup holders, but had never claimed the continent's top trophy. Bob Paisley's side took the lead through Terry McDermott and although Allan Simonsen equalised shortly after half-time, the Reds soon regained the lead through Tommy Smith with Neal himself putting the seal on a 3-1 victory through an 82nd-minute penalty.
"The game was a chance to lift ourselves after losing the FA Cup final the previous weekend to Manchester United, but I think the significant thing which swung it our way was that it was Kevin Keegan's final game in the Liverpool shirt. It wasn't just to be a parting gift to him, we wanted to win for ourselves and showed character and guts at the Olympic Stadium to do that. The 1977 final was quite a contrast to '84, because in '77 we were actually wondering if we could win it. Bob Paisley got it perfectly right in that he said to Kevin Keegan that 'Berti Vogts is going to mark you as tight as you've ever been marked before, so I want you to run over every blade of grass' – and Kevin did that.
"I always remember the stadium was unusual. The coach drove us in beneath the pitch as the dressing rooms were underground. The staff told us all to go out and look at the pitch while they laid the kit out. With the fans having sold everything to get to Wembley that Saturday we weren't expecting to see many of them but the support was magnificent. As a squad we said we had to win for the fans as they'd backed us in terms of money and noise. I was pleased we went ahead in the final – had they gone ahead it might have been more difficult for us. Terry McDermott scored after being put through by Stevie Heighway's pass. They pulled one back. It was a mistake between me and Jimmy Case and Simonsen, who would be European Footballer of the Year the next year, lashed it into the top corner past Ray Clemence.
"Everyone remained focused and disciplined, and [after Tommy Smith had made it 2-1] to still see Keegan running when he won the penalty in the 82nd minute or whatever was amazing. I was able to finish things off with a penalty passed Wolfgang Kneib. Having won the UEFA Cup the year before, the glowing tribute I would pay to a European Cup final is just lifting that wonderfully balanced trophy is quite different. And after winning it for the first time, everyone felt that this was the competition we really needed to be in.
"We went back to the hotel after the game, and half of Liverpool joined in the celebration. It was probably the biggest party, certainly in terms of cost, that the club had in the '70s. Afterwards Kevin Keegan was off to join Hamburg and we all went home to a civic reception. I remember it was funny seeing all the pictures in the paper the following day – there was one of Ian Callaghan with his hands in the prayer position as I was taking the penalty – and going round the city and showing off the trophy was a second adrenalin rush."