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Celtic: 2003 Uefa Cup final heartbreak against Mourinho's Porto

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They say an elephant never forgets. Neither, it seems, do Ayrshire cabbies.

Well over a decade on and thousands of miles away from the stifling heat of Seville, Costinha was in the back of a cab in a dreich Scotland, with a storm brewing in the seat in front.

Beside him sat former Porto team-mate Maniche, the man he stood alongside in the Estadio Olimpico on 21 May 2003. In front of him? A football-loving Scottish taxi driver with a grudge.

"The Uefa Cup final against Celtic was a funny one," Costinha told the Scottish FA's Coach Education podcast.

"When I was doing my A Licence in Scotland, I picked up a cab to go to Largs and the taxi driver was a Celtic supporter. He said 'Where are you from?'. I said we came from Portugal. 'Oh, I remember I was in Seville, we lost a game to those bastards from Porto!'

"I said to Maniche 'don't say nothing because he's going to throw us out of the car'. It was so funny."

The winding road to Seville

The fact midfielder Costinha describes it as funny perhaps suggests he fully doesn't understand the frustration felt in the Celtic camp.

The pain felt by the estimated 80,000 fans in Seville - a guestimate given the figure fluctuates from 40,000 to 400,000 depending on who you speak to - was only heightened by the palpable excitement that built throughout the run. The run was quite something and allowed fans to believe their 36-year wait for a European trophy may well be at an end.

Suduva of Lithuania were scudded 10-1 on aggregate; Blackburn Rovers were dismissed without conceding; Celta Vigo edged out on away goals; Stuttgart despatched in a 5-4 aggregate thriller. By the time Liverpool were beaten 3-1 over two legs, the notion of seeing off Boavista in the last four seemed written in the stars.

"We got a generous semi-final draw and, with all respect to Boavista, we were thinking what an opportunity it was to get to the final," said striker Chris Sutton.

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Martin O'Neill's 50th unbeaten game at home earned a 1-1 home draw with the Portuguese, Henrik Larsson scoring and missing a penalty with Joos Valgaeren netting an own goal. But despite a fraught night at the Estadio do Bessa, a prodded shot from the talismanic Swede crept into the back of the net with 12 minutes left to send Celtic to Seville.

"I tried to slip the ball to John Hartson but thankfully the defender slide-tackled and the ball came back to me," said Larsson of the goal. "I didn't get much on it and it certainly didn't go in the right direction but it doesn't matter."

Former Celtic midfielder Alan Thompson recalled: "I remember almost every second of that game. It was awful. I remember looking at the clock to see how long there was to go and it was as if time stood still. That was a long 12 minutes. To say it felt like 12 days would be accurate."

Not watching it back & war of words

The embers of frustration, and in some cases anger, still burn many connected with Celtic even 17 years on. Manager O'Neill says he still hasn't watched the full game back. Sutton described it as the hardest defeat of his career.

Derlei and Dmitri Alenichev twice gave Porto the lead - only for Larsson to haul Celtic level twice, rekindling hopes of adding to their 1967 European Cup win in Lisbon.

But when Derlei restored Porto's lead with only five minutes of extra-time left, aside Celtic down to 10 men after Bobo Balde's red card could not mount another recovery. Instead, their angst was only heightened with allegations of play-acting and time-wasting levelled at their opposition.

"I will probably get into trouble for this, but it was poor sportsmanship," O'Neill said afterwards. "The rolling over, the time-wasting. But they have beaten us, well done to them and it's up to us to learn from this. It is a steep learning curve, but this was a wonderful, wonderful experience.

"We came roaring back every time they scored a goal and, if when we had 11 against 11 in extra time, I think we were the more mentally strong, But it was not to be with Bobo getting sent off. It was a massive blow."

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Porto manager Jose Mourinho, who would go on to lead the Portuguese side to the Champions League title the following season, had a different opinion.

"I'd prefer to ask whether the behaviour of the Celtic players was normal in your country," he said post-match. "What Balde did to Deco in front of me could have ended his career.

"The referee wanted to end the game with 11 against 11 and I think maybe he was a bit afraid to send anyone off. There was a lot of commitment in Celtic's game, commitment, toughness and aggression. I'm tempted to use another word - but I won't."

Coming up short & best-behaved Bhoys

Celtic's huge following in Spain was later recognised by Fifa, with the 2003 Fair Play award given to them for "exemplary fair and cordial conduct" during their side's run.

While the supporters were being lauded, there was little time for them or their players to dwell. Just four days later, O'Neill's side took to the field in a nerve-jangling season finale, both they and Rangers locked on 94 points.

As it transpired, a 4-0 win at Rugby Park would not be enough for Celtic, with Rangers' 6-1 trouncing of Dunfermline clinching the title for the Ibrox side. Thompson would miss a penalty in Ayrshire, while Larsson also struck the upright, two pivotal moments given the league was lost by a solitary goal.

"The truth is we haven't anything tangible to show for an incredible year, but I know there are boys on their way back from Seville who would take it again," said O'Neill at Rugby Park.

"I would imagine we could play for another century and not have the same heartbreak. But in the cold light of day, the players have been astonishingly brilliant this season.

"The evenings at Ewood Park, Celta Vigo, Stuttgart - they don't come around too often. The way football is going, the big boys getting stronger, it might be a long time before a Scottish team gets to another European final."

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/52727386

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"Our standards have been set long ago".

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Scotland beat England but Home Championships voided in 1981

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It was a day that meant the world to one man, but in the end, counted for little to an entire nation.

Thirty-nine years ago today, Willie Miller had his defining moment in a Scotland shirt. With just a handful of caps to his name, he stepped into a three-lions den of Wembley and emerged with a Home Championship victory and a growing reputation.

It was the game that the former Aberdeen captain insists put him on the international map. But due to the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the pole position it gave Scotland in the table was wiped out when the tournament was abandoned for the only time outside of a World War.

Though Scotland had completed all of their games and was in a strong position after beating England, the English and Welsh FAs declined to travel to Belfast for their away ties, rendering the competition null and void.

Here, Miller tells BBC Scotland of that day at Wembley...

Must-do trip & enormous dressing rooms - the build-up

The British Home Championship was contested annually between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Despite an opening loss to Wales in 1981, confidence within the Scotland camp was renewed with a 2-0 victory against Northern Ireland at Hampden. Stein's men travelled to Wembley to face England in good spirits.

I spent most of the 70s trying to get some international recognition. My first cap was in 1975, then I got another in 1978. It was a bit of a challenge trying to get yourself noticed and I used to complain a bit to [club manager] Sir Alex Ferguson about it.

It was a big game. The thing about Wembley in those days was that it was mostly Scotland fans that were there. Where they got the tickets from, who knows. That meant it wasn't that intimidating on the pitch. It was more a feeling of responsibility because the fans were there to celebrate a victory, not go away with their tails between their legs.

It was an intimidating arena, the towers and the scale of the tunnel where the bus dropped you off. The dressing rooms were enormous, you could almost have another game in them. But I had been trying to get myself on to a stage like this and prove that I was good enough.

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'Watch Trevor Francis, he's quick' - the game

The conditions were very hot, and the pitch was soft, which zapped your strength. We were coming up against some of the best players in Europe at the time but, while it was a difficult game, it was comfortable at the same time.

We defended for most of the game. The first half it was Tony Woodcock and Peter Withe up front for England. "You take Withe and I'll take Woodcock," I said to Alex McLeish. It was as simple as that. The fact they had a tall striker and a more nimble striker suited us. But they changed it at half-time - Woodcock went off and Trevor Francis came on.

I remember Jock Stein sent on the physio to give me some information. "You need to watch Trevor Francis, he's really quick," he said. I already knew that! I knew I had to play a bit deeper, but I handled both of them and Big Alex took care of Withe particularly well.

Steve Archibald was brought down in the box during the second-half and it was definitely a penalty. I had no fear that John Robertson was going to miss - he was such a calm character - and then it was just a case of hanging on. We did that pretty comfortably.

Night at Stringfellows - the celebrations

We decided to stay in London and make a weekend of it. We got on the tube with the Tartan Army and then went out to Stringfellows, which was a very posh nightclub at the time. We had a couple of bottles of champagne and savoured the win.

A big part of being accepted was that game in 1981 because it put you on a major stage. It got you in front of an English audience. I think that allows the Scottish press and fans to accept you a bit better because you can go and take on the best of England at the time.

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Alex McLeish and I have spoken about the commentary and pre-match build-up to that win - I'm sure it was Lawrie McMenemy as a pundit and he hadn't a clue who we were. It was quite astonishing that there was no recognition of what we were beginning to achieve in Scotland.

Even the Scottish press dismissed you at the time, but that game changed everything. We changed our lives pretty considerably from the point of view of being recognised as international players.

It's like a performer doing the north of England clubs then getting a chance at the London Palladium and then everybody knows you. You go from obscurity to being on that big stage.

It was the first time since 1938 that Scotland had gone to Wembley and kept a clean sheet. And it was the most important international I played because it allowed me to go on and play in two World Cups and win 65 caps.

It was one of the major turning points in my career. The Scots invaded England and came away with a victory, so you have to make sure you savour that one.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/52759205

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On this day: Aberdeen striker Winters plays 87 minutes of 2000 Scottish Cup final in goal

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Aberdeen goalkeeper Jim Leighton remembers telling a few people in the week running up to the 2000 Scottish Cup final that he was going to be the very last soul off the Hampden pitch.

"Apparently, I lasted 90 seconds before Rod Wallace hit me, so sometimes you can put your size 10s in your mouth quite easily," the former Scotland keeper laughs.

It was to be Leighton's last hurrah in a distinguished career. What transpired, a broken jaw forcing the then 41-year-old out of the showpiece against title winners Rangers after three minutes and, with no goalkeeper among the three substitutes, meant striker Robbie Winters would take his place between the sticks.

Twenty years to the day since it happened, BBC Scotland recalls one of the most bizarre moments in Scottish football history.

'I said we needed a goalie on the bench'

In 2000 and then under the stewardship of the eccentric Dane Ebbe Skovdahl, Aberdeen had finished bottom of the Scottish Premier League but had also managed to reach the League Cup final, which they lost to Celtic. A star-studded Rangers, having won the treble the season before under Dick Advocaat, had wrapped up back-to-back titles and were aiming for the double.

Leighton, who was doubling up as Aberdeen's goalkeeping coach, recalls a conversation with Skovdahl in the build-up which, with the benefit of 20 years of hindsight, seems laughable.

"I said: 'Look I know what you're going to say to me, but I wouldn't be doing my job as a goalie coach if I didn't say my piece - I think we should have a goalie on the bench. What happens if I get sent off after five minutes and we've not got a goalie on the bench? The game's dead'," he said.

"He said: 'That's the way that I think gives me the best chance to win the game'. That's what Dick Advocaat had done as well. It worked for them, it didn't work for us."

Winters also speaks of some foreshadowing in the weeks before he found himself in the spotlight.

"It had been mentioned by Ebbe a couple of weeks before to everybody," Winters recalled to The Herald in 2017. "'Would anyone like to go in if something happened?'. There were only three subs at the time so I put my hand up no problem. It is one of those things that you just do, but you never thought it would come true."

'Any chance you get, have a pop'

But come true it did. Rangers striker Wallace stretched to try to turn in Andrei Kanchelskis' cross and caught Leighton, who bravely threw himself on the ball. The Aberdeen keeper was down for about seven minutes, before eventually being led off.

"You're thinking, 'they're in trouble'," says Billy Dodds, who played and scored for Rangers that day.

"Jim's in trouble first and foremost, you're hoping he's alright. But if he goes off, who are they going to put in goals? That was the first question. There's nae goalies!"

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Enter Winters, who jogged on rather comically wearing reserve goalkeeper Ryan Esson's top and looking like, in his own words, "a 16-year-old" and "little boy lost". "It works the other way. If we put on an outfield strip, it doesn't look right," Leighton laughs. The irony was that Esson was fit and available having warmed Leighton up, before getting changed into his suit and taking his seat in the South Stand.

BBC co-commentator and former Rangers midfielder Gordon Smith remarked that there was now "even less pressure" on Aberdeen and, for half an hour or so, they stood firm. Rangers barely tested Winters, with the make-shift keeper managing to hold a Jorg Albertz strike from distance and, much more impressively, tip a close-range volley from Wallace on to the crossbar.

"For the first half-hour we were poor, didn't even really trouble Robbie after Jim got carried off," Dodds said. "You could feel the fans starting to get a wee bit restless.

"The boys were saying it themselves. 'Any chance you get in a decent shooting position, have a pop'. But Robbie did pretty well, he had a few good saves. He was pretty competent."

Taking stick in a taxi

The honeymoon period did not last long, though. A quick free-kick on 35 minutes allowed Giovanni van Bronckhorst to volley into the back of the net. The strike was powerful, but straight at Winters and one Leighton would have fancied saving.

Then, three goals in four early second-half minutes from Tony Vidmar, Dodds, and then Jorg Albertz threatened to make it a cricket score. None of the goals could really be attributed to poor goalkeeping, and indeed Winters pulled off a spectacular save to deny Dodds late in the game.

Meanwhile, Leighton was in the bowels of Hampden, knowing he would not play competitively again.

"The ambulance took me up to the hospital, it took me a while. I had to go to Bon Secours [another hospital] to get an x-ray on a machine that went around me," Leighton recalls.

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"So, at the end of the game I'm sitting in a taxi with my strip on in amongst all the Rangers fans trying to get to Bon Secours and they're all giving me dog's abuse, which is exactly what I was needing!

"By the end of the game, somebody had come and told me what the score was. See to be honest, there was a gulf between the two teams anyway. I'd played against Rangers that season and I think they'd scored five and six against me."

Rangers had no replacement goalkeeper that afternoon either, but Stefan Klos managed to keep himself out of trouble. The rules were changed after the final to allow for five substitutes, with clubs compelled to put a goalkeeper on the bench.

Winters went on to finish a productive four-year spell at Aberdeen where he was tasked with scoring rather than saving goals. But this bizarre moment in Scottish football history is often the one he is remembered for, even after his title success in Norway with Brann Bergen.

"I think the Aberdeen fans accepted it," he told The Herald. "I spoke to a lot of them after the game, we had a big dinner that night up in Aberdeen and I was star man.

"It was a good laugh afterwards but you wanted to do well for the club and obviously win the cup but it wasn't to be. The circumstances kind of spoiled it."

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/52797432

 

 

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