Our series “Just Look at the Way” tells the stories behind key Scottish moments in European competition, whether important, trivial, aesthetically pleasing or simply funny. The name comes from a favourite phrase of the commentator Jock Brown during his analysis of action replays.
Next time some pub bore tells you that, actually, Martin O’Neill’s Celtic side were nothing but a bunch of hit-and-hope long-ball merchants, show them this goal.
A strange strand of revisionism has grown around O’Neill’s team. The argument goes that they simply bullied teams with their physicality and directness, bypassing the midfield and throwing balls into the box like an updated version of Jack Charlton’s Ireland.
This invites a question: why would anyone want to bypass a midfield that contained, at various times, Lubo Moravcik, Paul Lambert, Stan Petrov, Shaun Maloney, Neil Lennon, Alan Thompson and the scorer of this sublime goal, Liam Miller?
After a series of long-term injuries, Miller took his opportunity at the start of the 03/04 season. He brought poise, awareness and, crucially, energy to a side picking itself up after the crushing disappointment of “the Seville season”, from which it emerged empty-handed.
Lyon was Miller’s breakthrough performance. The young Irishman started on the bench but, with an hour gone and Celtic struggling to find their rhythm against Paul Le Guen’s side, O’Neill introduced Miller in place of John Hartson. The switch changed the game.
Within minutes, he played his part in a sweeping 20-something-pass move, dropping deep to connect play before ghosting in at the back post and heading Henrik Larsson’s perfect cross from the left into the ground and beyond Grégory Coupet in the Lyon goal.
Chris Sutton added a second to give Celtic a 2-0 victory that had seemed unlikely before Miller’s introduction. They would eventually be eliminated by Le Guen’s side in heartbreaking fashion, conceding a silly penalty five minutes from the end of the final group game to lose 3-2.
But not before Miller made his mark on the European stage. When Celtic faced Anderlecht, Sir Alex Ferguson was in attendance to watch the Belgians’ young defender, Vincent Kompany. “However, my attention soon gravitated to Celtic’s energetic young midfielder,” he later told the Irish Examiner.
“What I witnessed was a player with a tremendous set of midfield fundamentals…I came away smitten by his performance. Leaving Parkhead I was totally determined to get Liam Miller to Manchester United.”
He succeeded, spiriting the boyhood United supporter away to Old Trafford under freedom of contract at the end of the season. Miller struggled to break into the first team and his subsequent, peripatetic career never quite hit the heights hinted at during the winter of 2003. Tragically, he passed away in 2018 at the age of 36.
For everyone who saw Liam Miller in his Celtic pomp, we’ll always have Lyon.
Rangers sides of the 1990s had their share of European near-misses, and the final campaign of the millennium was a hard one to take.
Dick Advocaat’s expensively assembled side qualified for the first of two Champions League group stages in impressive fashion, eliminating UEFA Cup holders Parma, who fielded the likes of Gianluigi Buffon, Lilian Thuram, Fabio Cannavaro and Dino Baggio.
There, they finished third in a tough group containing Bayern Munich, Valencia and PSV, and would have qualified ahead of the Germans had they got the point they deserved from a final-game decider in Munich. Not only did Rangers lose the match (1-0), they also lost new signing Michael Mols to a serious knee injury. The Dutchman would never really recover.
Rangers parachuted into the UEFA Cup where they met fellow Champions League dropouts Borussia Dortmund, who were struggling to transition after their success in 1997. It was nonetheless a glamour tie; the Daily Record dubbed the first leg the most lucrative 90 minutes in Scottish football history, since Rangers would make £2.5million between ticket sales, hospitality, German TV and the UK broadcast, courtesy of Channel 5. Simpler times.
At Ibrox, Rangers led through an early Jürgen Kohler own goal as half-time approached. The home side stopped a Dortmund attack and it seemed they would see out the half by retaining possession, until Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Arthur Numan suddenly raised the tempo. A series of one-touch passes worked into the box found the run of Albertz, back for Wallace, who finished beyond Jens Lehmann.
Every outfield player took part in the wonderful 20-pass move, which gave Rangers a commanding lead against the German giants.
Unfortunately for Rangers it wasn’t enough, as the second leg became the Jens Lehmann show. With the game entering the 92nd minute and Dortmund needing a goal to take the game into extra-time, Lehmann joined the attack and claimed an unorthodox assist, the ball hitting his standing leg and falling to Fredi Bobic, who equalised.
The goalkeeper then saved three penalties in the subsequent shoot-out to eliminate Rangers. It was a frustrating end to a campaign that promised so much and delivered only, almost as consolation, a team goal of the highest quality.
We’ve written before about Hearts’ journey in 1988/89 being something of an anomaly. Their best UEFA Cup campaign produced a number of memorable moments, of which this nimble move was one.
After beating St Patrick’s Athletic 4-0, Hearts were handed a tricky tie against Austria Vienna. The task got harder after a goalless first leg at Tynecastle, and all was not well at the club as the second leg approached.
Chairman Wallace Mercer sacked co-manager Sandy Jardine, leaving Alex MacDonald in sole charge, whilst director Douglas Park (whatever happened to him?) resigned, but not before locking referee David Syme in his dressing room following a defeat to Rangers. On the field the club had started the season poorly, lying 8th in the 10-team Premier Division.
It didn’t look good but MacDonald had a plan to defeat Vienna: push Mike Galloway into an unusual attacking role. “We’ll have to grit our teeth in those opening 20 minutes of non-stop attack from them,” said MacDonald, in a pre-match interview that could have been given by any Scottish manager in a similar position over the last 50 years. “If we can weather that, we can go looking for that all-important away goal.”
His plan worked. In a game characterised by the offside trap (both sides had early goals disallowed, and Hearts were caught offside on a number of subsequent occasions), a bit of halfway-line head-tennis bamboozled the Viennese defense. The conductor was Eamonn Bannon who, drawing on his continental experience, waited until the backline was suitably disoriented before switching play to the marauding Walter Kidd on the right flank.
“The trap has been broken!” cried match commentator Alastair Alexander, as Kidd crossed for the flying Galloway to nod in the decisive goal. It was a composed, well-worked winner, spoiled only by Galloway’s awful, drunk-uncle-dancing-at-a-wedding celebration.
Not that the travelling Hearts supporters cared. For them, it was a very good night, Vienna.
Liverpool supporters celebrating their long-awaited league title might also raise a glass to John Brownlie.
With ten minutes left in the first leg of their UEFA Cup “Battle of Britain”, Hibs were awarded a penalty and the chance to take a 2-0 lead to Anfield. Up stepped spot-kick specialist Brownlie (fresh from scoring one against Ayr a week earlier), but his weak effort was saved by Ray Clemence.
Nevertheless, manager Eddie Turnbull was satisfied with the 1-0 victory in the lashing Leith rain: “It takes two to beat us now and I think we’re capable of scoring again at Anfield, so Liverpool have plenty to do.”
Turnbull was correct. Hibs did score at Anfield (going into the half-time break 2-1 up on aggregate) but two second half goals from John Toshack gave him a hat-trick and Liverpool a slender 3-2 aggregate victory. Brownlie’s missed penalty proved pivotal.
The win kick-started the European hegemony of Bob Paisley’s side. Liverpool went on to win the UEFA Cup that season, then the next two European Cups, establishing a continental reputation that sustained the club during its years of domestic failure.
Had Brownlie scored from the spot, it could all have been so different.
As it was, Hibs had to settle for heroic defeat, but a defeat that included this fine end-to-end move. If the aim of tiki-taka is death by a thousand cuts, this was a rapier attack: a thrust that went from goalkeeper to goal in just 15 seconds.
Beginning with a characteristically calm headed backpass by John Blackley, the attack flowed from McArthur’s hands through Iain Munro, who slid a defence-splitting ball down the left flank for Arthur Duncan. Without breaking strike, Duncan crossed for Joe Harper, who finished first-time to send the brollies of 19,000 supporters flying into the capital sky.
“We really rattled them with our pace, and their possession football began to fall apart,” said Hibs’ manager after the game. In monsoon conditions, Turnbull’s Tornadoes inflicted Liverpool’s only European defeat that season as the Anfield side began a decade of domination on the continent.