What a night this was,the Hoops got gubbed 5-0,lucky to get nil,and it could have been ten. It was one of those unforgettable European nights at Celtic Park,a cold November night with a performance to warm the cockles of the coldest heart.
Celtic 5 Sporting Lisbon 0. On 2nd November 1983. And I was there,along with 40,000 others,and about 12,000 priests(!)
Celtic that night wore their lime green away shirts for some reason,allowing Sporting Lisbon to wear their own iconic Green and White Hoops. Besmirched,however,by black shorts-presumably in deference to Portugal’s recent fascist past (only kidding)-and there’s no way their performance was becoming of a team in those colours.
We blew them away,from start to finish-and this on the back of a 2-0 deficit from the first leg!
The season had started well,winning every game through till the end of September,bar a shocker of a 0-0 at home to,erm,Brechin. And then,in what was beginning to become a tradition,the wheels came off in October. We went the entire month,seven or eight games,without a win. Until the final Saturday of the month,against Hibs at home,when it all clicked.
Even Brian Whittaker scored as we beat them 5-1,and happy days are here again!
And so to the Wednesday night,where a familiar looking line-up faced a confident Portuguese team who had a healthy two goal cushion,and in Dr Jo Venglos,a manager who would one day be immortalised in prose by BRT&H!!!
From the off,it was clear that The Bhoys had their tails up,and to this day,I can’t name a Man of the Match. What I can say is that there were no failures,and not even a 7/10. Well,maybe Pat Bonnar,he had very little to do! CELTICBYNUMBERS would have a field day with this game,it was virtually one-way traffic from the start. Davie Provan had one of his best games for us,Frank McGarvey twisted the blood of defenders and spectators alike as he ran riot,Tommy Burns was at his driving best,Paul McStay and Murdo McLeod tackled,gathered,passed all night.
Not that we had to wait all night for the action to begin-we went for it from the off. The Sporting goal had had a charmed life for fifteen minutes or so,but the crowd weren’t getting restless-and the players definitely weren’t getting desperate. The excellent Provan passed it down the line to Frankiebhoy. He checked,and put in a peach of a cross which was met at the back-post with a downward header from Tommy.
The next twenty or so minutes was one-way traffic,but we couldn’t quite find the finish. Till just before half-time,corner on the right,a Davie inswinger missed by the otherwise excellent keeper,and finished like the striker he was when he bought him,Tom McAdam.
All even,and home advantage and the wind in our sails for the second half,aye,we were confident we could finish this in the second half! Except that the first half wasn’t finished yet,as Brian McClair-IMO,seriously underrated as a great Celtic striker-took a loose pass from Roy Aitken-?-and with a change of direction,wrong-footed the defence and stroked it home from just inside the area.
We went into half-time in a state of disbelief,bearing in mind what we had watched the previous month. There was no way we were going to blow this now,was there? At the back of our minds,there was always the nagging worry of the away goal,minds elsewhere with a trip to Ibrox on Saturday,been here before,no,we’ll be fine! That’s the problem with half time,too much thinking time!
And wouldn’t you know it,Celtic toyed with our emotions for nearly all of the second half! We might have been worried about the away goal,but it didn’t seem to bother the players-they went for it from the off again. Frankiebhoy missed two sitters in the first few minutes,it was like bagatelle and The Alamo combined in their box,as we hit shot after shot,only to see them bounce off a forest of legs on or near the goal line. I think we got one chopped off for offside,beats me how-they had half their defence strung along the line,but the fingernails were getting chewed,even though we were all enthralled by the display.
Eventually,Murdo got the fourth to settle any nerves,again after a “stramash” he just hammered it. From the restart,Sportinglost the ball,and Paul McStay-?-sent it long to Frank who finally got the goal his performance merited. For which he was promptly replaced by Jim Plumrose,heyho…
What a night,and what a performance! Was it as good as,say,Real Madrid three years earlier? Well,Real was the first leg. We were two down here,and were fearless. And magnificent. If there is a negative from this game-in hindsight-it is the one which we had to bear throughout the eighties. That is,that we could all see how good this team was. And yet,you look back to that era and see what we won. It’s like Jim Bowen was a Celtic fan-here’s what you COULD have won!
As an example,we went down to Nottingham and absolutely battered a very good Forest side 0-0. The peerless Cloughie conjured up a typical Forest away performance and mugged us 2-1 in the return. And we still had the euphoria and utter despair of Rapid Vienna to come the following season,but I’ll let someone else cover that match.
For this article isn’t about what might have been,it’s about what was. And it most certainly WAS a magnificent Celtic performance,an unforgettable European occasion under the floodlights,and a MOST MEMORABLE MATCH!!!
Above article by majoc. Please submit your memories of ‘days like these’ to Mahe at