Scottish Cup Final v Celtic
CELTIC 3 DUNFERMLINE 1 Date: 22/05/04
Fixture: Tennent`s Scottish Cup Final
Attendance: 50846, Kick Off: 15:00
Referee: Stuart Dougal, Weather: Sunny 17˚C
Broadwood blizzards, remote midweek replays and road works that tested every Fife fan`s means of navigation to Hampden failed to stop the Pars route to their first Scottish Cup Final since 1968. Celtic - the final frontier; could Jimmy Calderwood`s team gain legendary status in their own playing career?
It was a fantastic Cup Final that matched the magnificent sunny May afternoon; an extremely entertaining match fit for such a great occasion. The Pars went one up through a Skerla header but the scourge of DA, Henrik Larsson capped his last competitive appearance for Celtic with two second half goals that killed off the dreams of the Fifers. Petrov added a third six minutes from time and it was not to be a historic third Cup win for the Pars.
Jimmy Calderwood’s Cup Final’s side included Aaron Labonte in the central defence, Lee Bullen dropped to the bench allowing room for the return of Darren Young. That of course meant the Cup Final appearances of brothers in the same side for the first time since the Callaghans in 1968. The manager reasoned that he was going for pace and footballers; height in the past had not proved to be the answer in the past against Celtic. Celtic were unchanged from the team that defeated Dundee United last Sunday.
Pre match entertainment drowned by the Hampden music system included 79 kids dressed in the kit of every team that contested this season’s competition. "Away, away, away" occasionally managed to peep through the deafening decibels, as the teams were led out by their respective managers. Martin O’Neil led his bhoys along the Dunfermline line exchanging sporting handshakes. Cleverly the Pars players went to their supporters to rouse them as Celtic went into their traditional huddle.
The 119th Scottish Cup Final kicked off amid huge noise from both sets of fans. The Pars travelling support filled the Rangers End with more chequered flags than you’d find at Monza while the Celtic fans enclosed the remainder of the sun kissed arena. Stillie was the first keeper to get a touch holding a drive from Sutton on the 60 seconds mark.
The Dunfermline fans on the far side thought that Gary Dempsey had scored in the 5th minute. Craig Brewster won a free kick as Varga’s challenge was too strong for referee Dougal but the shot from the Irishman hit the green rnet support behind the goalpost. Very quickly the Pars had another chance when Crawford traded the ball with Brewster before racing in to smash too hurriedly over the crossbar.
There was danger for the Fifers in the 8th minute when a free kick 25 yards out for Darren Young’s challenge on Varga but the wall stopped the drive. Stillie was quickly out to hold when the ball was sent back into the penalty box in the direction of Varga.
Celtic were beginning to win more possession and Didier Agathe created many problems down the right. He sent over a nice ball that Henrik Larsson flicked back to Pearson but Dempsey put in a good block to force the ball away.
With 19 minutes gone Barry Nicholson conceded the first corner of the match but Andrius Skerla was alert to nick the ball off Varga as Larsson knocked it to him.
A Nicholson ball over from the right found Brewster at the far side of the box but his low left footed shot was stopped by Marshall on the edge of his six yard box.
Relentless Celtic pressure required headed clearances and desperate stuff. A long ball from Richie Byrne presented Stevie Crawford with another chance in the 26th minute but Varga closed him down so much that all he could muster was a tame chip into young Marshall’s hands. Play was rapidly switched to the other end and Sutton’s lay off to Thompson on the top of the box was driven low off the Englishman’s left foot narrowly passed the right post.
A good saving tackle on Petrov by Labonte conceded another corner but Stillie was well out to fist away the delivery. Dunfermline came to life and the interchanges between Brewster and Dempsey took the pressure off their defence.. Then Darren Young and Brew combined to send Crawford up the left. His cross was headed on to the roof of the net by Derek Young.
Celtic had the ball in the net in the 35th minute but the far side linesman’s flag was up for a Larsson tug on Labonte. Further Pars pressure eventually paid dividends. Darren Young miskicked at a Mason pass along the top of the Celtic box but his brother got a connection with a drive that McNamara headed behind for a corner on the right.
Dempsey sent over the kick and Andrius SKERLA’s looping header beat Marshall on his line no doubt put off by the close attentions of Derek Young. The Lithuanian’s header from 15 yards sent the Pars fans into ecstasy with 39 minutes and 20 seconds gone.
A 41st minute free kick awarded for Nicholson’s clumsy challenge on Larsson was taken by Thompson but Dempsey headed the danger out of the Pars penalty area. A Balde header from a Byrne clearance was deflected off Skerla back to Stillie and then Dempsey on the break shot a high effort over the Celtic bar from all of 35 yards.
The half finished with more Celtic pressure. Derek Young’s tackle on Sutton earned the Hoops a weak free kick on the edge of the box but Larsson’s shot hit the defensive wall and then a low Sutton drive was well held by Stillie.
1-0 the Pars. Half the job done perhaps but then we led Celtic 2-1 at half time in the ’65 Cup Final and subsequently went down 3-2. Still the dream was still very much alive.
Half time: Celtic 0 Dunfermline 1
Celtic continued after the break from where they left off but Stillie’s first saves came from his own players. A Petrov corner was punched on to the back of Byrne and the yellow shirted stopper had to dive to his right to hold the rebound. Then a Thompson free kick has headed off the head of young Labonte and again Stillie had to be quickly deployed.
Intense Celtic pressure caused five Celtic corners and goalmouth clearances abounded. Byrne was back to stop the flow of Agathe but yet another corner came in the 55th minute and Stillie punched away. Crawford and Dempsey eased the pressure and Balde needlessly gave away a corner on the left. No Pars contact was made although video evidence might well reveal that a Celtic arm was used to defend the corner. Celtic stole the ball away fast and Dunfermline paid for sending so many players up to attack the set piece. The ball was directed at Henrik LARSSON and he beat off Labonte to drive home from the left side of the box into the far right of the Dunfermline net.
Lee Bullen came on for Gary Dempsey on the hour and both sides competed in true cup tie style. One minute later Jackie McNamara drove in a shot that Derek Stillie blocked. The Celtic fans were in full voice as they urged their team on.
Petrov got away from Mason on the right and Bullen at the far post prevented Larsson’s second with 69 minutes gone. Next minute Larsson launched a Sutton lob well over the bar when the opportunity was there. The goal that threatened duly arrived in the 71st minute however and yet again it was that man LARSSON. Running into the left side of the box on to a Thompson dink, the Swede peeled away from Labonte to send a left footed shot in at the right post.
A long ball headed on by Brewster to Bullen was beaten away at the edge of Celtic’s six yard box but the Pars were living even more dangerously as Thompson’s shot was deflected over the top for the SPL champions ninth corner of the second half.
Six minutes from time the colour of ribbons on the cup was settled when an Agathe cros bounced off the head of Lee Bullen on the far side of the box. He was unlucky to lose the sight of the ball and it fell nicely for Wallace who played in a square ball that PETROV controlled advanced a couple of yards and drove a low right footed shot that sneaked in at the right post.
In the 88th minute Crawford and Brewster almost cheered the Pars support up but even as Bullen failed to connect at the far post the offside flag was up against Crawford. Andy Tod was brought on for Byrne but there was nothing that was going to stop the green machine.
It was a valiant try from Calderwood`s team. The tactics seemed to work in the first half but when Celtic went up a gear in the second half the Pars just could not contain them.
The players should be praised for their undying efforts and the best individual performance came from Andrius Skerla who, as well as grabbing his first goal of the season, did a great job in the centre of the defence. Young Labonte will probably not line up beside him at the beginning of next season if Scott Wilson or Scott Thomson are fit but at 20 he is a great prospect. He did lose out to the Celtic attack but then who can really handle Henrik Larsson.
Well done lads, the town can be proud of you and thank you for a great day that will forever remain in the memory of the 15,000 Pars fans who made the trip to Hampden.