If You Know The History: 21st May 2003 UEFA Cup Final Celtic 2 Porto 3

21st May 2003 UEFA Cup Final  Celtic 2 Porto 3

It is recent enough for all of us to remember the anguish and disappointment. The record books merely state that the score was Porto 3 Celtic 2 but we all have much more detailed memories of the occasion. And it all took place on this day nine years ago, in 2003.

In the days leading up to the game, the Scottish sporting press was full of news and comment, reprising the club’s performance in the earlier rounds and also assessing the differing qualities of the finalists. It would be the third time Celtic had reached a European final and also a first-ever appearance in the UEFA Cup final. It had all the makings of a memorable occasion and thousands of Celtic fans set off for Seville by land, seas and air, all desperate to be able to say ‘I was there’.

The Celtic starting eleven was Rab Douglas, Johann Mjallby, Bobo Balde, Joos Valgareren, Didier Agathe, Neil Lennon, Paul Lambert, Stilyan Petrov, Alan Thompson, Henrik Larsson, Chris Sutton. The crucial moments of the match were;-

45 mins   A mistake by Bobo Balde gave Deco possession. He passed to Alenitchev, whose shot was side-footed into the net by Derlei.

47 mins   A cross from the right by Didier Agather and Henrik Larsson rises above everyone else to head home.

54 mins   Deco passes into the path of Alenitchev, who scores Porto’s second.

57 mins  An Alan Thompson free-kick was powerfully headed home by Henrik Larsson. 2-2

So to extra-time, with the pressure mounting, both on and off the pitch. Unfortunately, on the field of play, it gets to Bobo Balde, he commits a foul for which he receives a second yellow card and is ordered off. The Porto players seem to get a lift from the decision and control the play. Suddenly comes a crucial moment.

115 mins  Rab Douglas spills the ball at the feet of Derlei, whose shot spins agonisingly off the keeper and past substitute Ulrik Laursen on the goal line for the winner.

It was an unfortunate end to a great contest and while the Porto players celebrated, the Celtic stars stood sadly in the background, acknowledging the response of their supporters, who had been in wonderful form all evening and in spite of their disappointment, continued to cheer their team. It was a most impressive performance, which was rightly recognised with awards by both EUFA and FIFA.

Jim Craig

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