A year after English sides had returned to European competition, four-time European Cup winners Liverpool were back in continental action like they had never been away – knocking out Kuusysi Lahti, Auxerre and Swarovski Tirol while scoring 15 goals and conceding just three.
Therefore, a quarter-final tie with the surprise package of the previous Serie A campaign and European debutants, Genoa, was expected to bring little fear to the Merseyside club, who had been reigning champions just nine months earlier.
In contrast, the Grifone’s last major honour was a Coppa Italia back in 1937, they had been languishing in the second tier just three years prior and barely risen above mid-table since their return.
However, when British viewers turned on their television screens on the evening of March 4, 1992, the Rossoblu were ready to show them and the rest of Europe that they deserved their place in the last eight.
Walking out onto the playing turf of the Stadio Luigi Ferraris, a banner covering the entire opposite stand read “We Are Genoa” and the noise generated by the capacity crowd appeared to grow louder-and-louder. Failing to lessen as it headed skyward.
As the TV cameras cut to the line of Liverpool players completing the pre-match formalities, rather than looking stern faced and focused, there was a mix of trepidation and wonderment while surveying the vociferous home crowd.
Jogging towards the Genoa Ultras in the Gradinata Nord, goalkeeper Mike Hooper must have known he was in for a busy night. Engulfed by the pyrotechnic smoke surrounding the arena and making it difficult to distinguish the choreographies in the stand behind his goal.
The welcome they had given the English side had done its job, with the hosts threatening within the opening minute. Left-back Claudio Branco released down his flank and delivering a low cross that was scuffed wide by Stefano Eranio.
Hooper made an important save low to Czech international Tomas Skuhravy soon after, but Liverpool managed to weather the initial storm and brought some calm to proceedings before the Grifone struck a vital blow on 39 minutes.
A lofted free-kick from the halfway line from captain Gianluca Signorini was headed by Skuhravy towards the penalty spot, where strike partner Carlos Aguilera’s attempt looped aimlessly into the air. However, without hesitating, midfielder Valeriano Fiorin met the dropping ball beautifully to volley home.
Despite the pause for half-time, the goal was a catalyst for another wave of Rossoblu attacks. Hooper pushing a Skuhravy shot from a narrow angle round the post. Aguilera flicked the ball over the head of a defender and struck powerfully at the shotstopper. The attacking appeared never-ending.
With the visitors’ European pedigree, Genoa knew they needed another goal, though, and it eventually arrived on 88 minutes in stunning fashion.
Free-kick specialist Branco had tested his sights, and Hooper’s handling, moments earlier and now stood over another set-piece 30-yards from goal. Setting off from his trademark 15-20 yard run up, later mirrored by Roberto Carlos, when the Brazilian connected with the ball it swerved viciously off the outside of his boot into the top corner.
As the beaming South American sprinted away in jubilation the Marassi erupted and celebrations started across the city, ignoring the 90 minutes yet to play back at Anfield. In many eyes the tie looked over.
Two weeks later on Merseyside the home crowd gave a similarly impressive display of ferocity and pyrotechnics, but the Italians were not to be fazed and recorded an equally impressive victory in front of an expectant Kop.
Aguilera made it 3-0 on aggregate against the run of play on 27 minutes and although Ian Rush had equalised early in the second period, the Uruguayan netted the winner when completing a free-flowing team move with 18 minutes left.
Genoa have arguably never reached such heights again and were relegated three years later and took over a decade just to return to Italy’s top-table.
But for those 90, or 180, minutes they had become a major name in European football.