As Celtic & Rangers lined up pre-match at Celtic Park in early May, there was very little at stake for Celtic. The championship had already been won, the league trophy was in the boardroom and the player’s league winner’s medals were safely tucked away at home. Only one issue was still to be decided. Could Celtic complete a whitewash of their Glasgow rivals?
The bittersweet end to the 2002 / 2003 season saw Celtic with no trophies to show, but some amazing memories of an unforgettable run to the UEFA Cup Final in Seville.
The 03/04 season delivered silverware & some more magical moments in Europe. Over the course of the season, Celtic & Rangers would meet 5 times, 4 matches in the league and 1 more in the Scottish Cup.
In the first meeting of the season in early October, Celtic shuffled the pack playing Chris Sutton at centre back and bringing in Liam Miller to midfield. Celtic went home with 3 points thanks to a goal from John Hartson just at the start if the 2nd half. The win put down a marker and put Celtic top of the league.
The traditional New Year’s match up was as one sided as the result suggests. Goals from Petrov, Varga & Thompson secured a 3-0 victory and an 11-point lead in the championship race.
The Scottish Cup draw paired the sides together in the quarterfinal at Celtic Park. A scrappy second half goal from Henrik Larsson ensured Celtic progressed to the Semi-Final.
29 matches unbeaten and 16 points ahead in the league, Celtic made their last trip to Ibrox and took a commanding 2 goal lead thanks to Larsson and Thompson, a late goal from Rangers could not stop us extending our lead at the top of the league to 19 points.
So everything was set for the final match up of the season. A win would give Celtic their first whitewash over Rangers since the early 1970s.
A bright start saw Celtic score early, only to see the goal chopped off for a foul in the build up. Both keepers were tested through the 90 minutes as the match looked to be heading for a stalemate.
With the match in injury time Sutton flicked on a long ball to Larsson who took a touch and complete his one-two with Sutton. Sutton controlled the ball 30 yards from goal & powered his way passed
Frank De Boer at the centre of the Rangers defence, leaving De Boer face down in the turf.
With only Klos to beat, Sutton chipped the ball in to the top corner from 25 yards out, before running to the Celtic end to celebrate with his teammates. Fans joined in the jubilation for the remainder of the match and long into the night.
With shades of memorable chip from Larsson in the 6-2 game in 2000, Sutton and Larsson had reversed roles to deliver the same glorious outcome.
Celtic would go on to complete the League and Cup double, helping ease the pain of the missed opportunities from the previous season and made all the sweeter with the whitewash of our city rivals.
Martin Donaldson is a Glasgow East End Bhoy, He made my first trip to Celtic Park in 1983 for a 0-0 draw with Brechin City & thankfully that never put him off going back. He now sits perched high in section 409 of the North Stand with his 2 kids making memories along the Celtic Way.
He loves picking out those matches from yester-year to find out much more about the legendary names & faces that have graced the Celtic Jersey over the years. He is a keen fundraiser for The Celtic Foundation & The British Heart Foundation as they both strive to make a difference and to change peoples lives all over the world.