In the first of a new series entitled ‘Fan Memories’, Brendan Ogle remembers Celtic’s famous victory over Liverpool in 2003.
ANFIELD – 20 MARCH 2003
UEFA Cup Quarter Final 2nd Leg
Liverpool v Celtic
Nobody gave Celtic a chance but the more I thought about it the more I couldn’t see them NOT winning. Maybe it was the rocky ferry or the dodgy beer but to me the logic was insurmountable. Celtic would score. Celtic always scored.
That meant that Liverpool would need two goals to beat them. And, with Bobo Balde, Johan Mjallby and Joos Valgaeren in Celtic’s central defence, and Paul Lambert and Neil Lennon in front of them, that wasn’t going to happen. Anfield or not, Kop or not. Celtic were going through to the UEFA Cup semi-final and I was going to be there to see it.
How we were going to get into the ground was much more challenging than the inevitable romp on the pitch. While my friend and I pondered this puzzle the train sped through north Wales and closer to Merseyside. The closer we got to Liverpool the more the excitement built and the more the excitement built, the more determined I became. I was getting in!
By 4 o’clock we were in a pub a stone’s throw from Anfield surrounded by Celtic fans singing their usual ditties, none of whom seemed to have tickets. This was not unusual for a Celtic travelling support in Europe, especially across Hadrian’s Wall, where Celtic never so much brought a support but an invasion.
It had happened earlier in the tournament too when an unimpressive Celtic 1st leg performance was followed by an almost total Celtic invasion of Blackburn’s Ewood Park and a 2-0 away win for Celtic over Graham Souness’s side. Tonight, I was certain, would tell a similar tale and in order to get in it was it was time to scout out the ground.
The relationship between most Liverpool fans and Celtic is historically good and that day it was no different. There had been concerns that El Hadji Diouf spitting at a Celtic fan as he left the field during the 1-1 draw in the first leg might have spoiled the atmosphere, but Liverpool Football Club’s embarrassment seemed to be shared by all of their fans who were even more friendly than usual. Especially the one who sold me his ticket!
Yes, outside the main stand a Liverpool season ticket holder was so confident of victory that he sold me his match ticket twenty yards from the dug outs for £100. Three hours later I was sitting in his seat wearing my Celtic jersey and scarf surrounded by (mostly) friendly Liverpool fans. It was only a matter of waiting for the inevitable away goals.
A minute before half time and it happened. An Alan Thompson free kick and the Liverpool wall jumped, which was very helpful because Thompson’s shot was a daisy skimmer which flew under the wall and into the net in front of the Kop.
I leapt up hitting one of my less friendly hosts on the side of his head with my elbow which, not unreasonably, made him even more irate than the goal. It’s amazing how brave a day of watery beer and other Liverpool fans telling him to shut up made me as the celebrations continued up to half time.
I was so relaxed it was unreal. I knew we were through and enjoyed the pie and Bovril among concerned scousers wondering where their goals would come from.
They wouldn’t! And when Big John Hartson buried a 25 yarder in the postage stamp corner right in front of Celtic’s ‘official’ support it was over. Delirium all around as our hosts accepted defeat gracefully and, following a semi-final win over Boavista, the road to Seville for the 2003 UEFA Cup Final was opened up for the finest Celtic team I have ever seen, managed by our own Martin O’Neill.
Oh, and Henrik Larsson was in it too!
Brendan Ogle, Pundit Arena.