Four Late, Late Shows

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.

1. Georgios Samaras, Spartak Moscow v CELTIC, 2012/13 Champions League group stages

Representing Celtic in our look at some of the most dramatic late European goals is a superb injury-time strike time in Moscow from Georgios Samaras.

But which strike, you may ask?

Three years prior to the 2012 goal in question, he saved new Hoops boss Tony Mowbray’s skin (for the time being at least) and staved off potential early embarrassment, although much worse was to follow.

On that occasion against Dynamo Moscow, the scores were level at 1-1 on aggregate when the polarising Greek trapped a dropping ball inside the area, wove his way around challenges and ignored repeated cries to shoot before squeezing the ball into the bottom corner to send Celtic through.

That was in the qualification stages for the Champions League and the Bhoys didn’t usually have too much difficulty on the road in those contests.

It was in the group stage and beyond where things became a little more difficult away from their Parkhead fortress, as their inability to win on the road went from worrying to inexplicable.

The bad omens started immediately with their 2001 debut against Juventus, their extraordinary, extraordinary performance undone by a shocking refereeing decision.

Between that game and their 2012 trip to the Russian capital, Celtic had played a further 20 away games in the group stage or beyond and lost 19 of them, picking up a solitary draw thanks to a John Hartson goal at Barcelona in 2004.

There was no discernible pattern to the losses. Causes varied from individual errors (Magnus Hedman, Bobo Balde, Joos Valgaeren and others being very guilty here); to opposition skulduggery (Old Trafford in 2006); to appalling capitulations, such as the late loss at Aalborg in 2008 after taking the lead.

This one, on matchday two of the 2012/13 Champions League, had all the hallmarks of one of the infamous hard-luck stories that followed Celtic on their travels, seeking them out everywhere from Lyon to Lisbon.

Gary Hooper put the visitors in front at the cavernous Luzhniki Stadium but, when Kris Commons was denied a stonewall penalty, you knew what was coming next.

Goals from Emmanuel Emenike either side of half-time completed the inevitable turnaround and things looked bleak for Neil Lennon’s men again.

But they were offered an avenue back in when Juan Manuel Insurralde saw red for pulling down Hooper as he raced in on goal and they made it count when substitute James Forrest’s deflected strike snuck into the net via Dmitri Kombarov.

Then, with the game in injury-time, Samaras struck. Lennon had already rolled the dice by making attack-minded changes after Insurralde’s exit and his daring game of Russian roulette paid off in the final act.

Emilio Izaguirre swung in a beauty of a cross that was begging to be met and the striker obliged, rising to steer an unstoppable header into the corner and write Celtic history. 

At the 21st attempt, their Greek god had led them to the summit of Mount Olympus.

“I’m probably the proudest man in Europe tonight,” an overjoyed Lennon declared in his press conference afterwards. “I cannot speak highly enough of the players.

“They were magnificent. They played magnificent football at a very tough venue against an excellent side. They showed great character and fortitude to come back after going behind just after half-time. I thought we thoroughly deserved to win it.”

Unfortunately for the Hoops, it wasn’t to herald the start of a new dawn on the road in the Champions League and they’ve won just once since then, overcoming Anderlecht with unusual ease in a 3-0 victory in 2017.

2. Ross McCormack, Porto v RANGERS, 2005/06 Champions League group stage

With the benefit of hindsight teenage super-sub Ross McCormack’s late leveller for Rangers at Porto in 2005 takes on greater significance.

It came in the penultimate game of the group phase and kept alive his side’s hopes of qualification for the knockout phase.

But at the time it seemed little more than a brief reprieve for struggling manager Alex McLeish, who had announced he would leave at the end of the season and who was overseeing the longest winless run in the club’s history at that time.

“This result means that I might keep my job for a start,” a beleaguered McLeish quipped afterwards.

After beating Motherwell 2-0 on 22 October, it would take 10 unsuccessful attempts and six long weeks before Rangers tasted victory again, a Peter Lovenkrands hat-trick putting paid to Kilmarnock at Rugby Park.

Convincing back-to-back derby defeats at Parkhead preceded the trip to Portugal, meaning confidence wasn’t high among a squad that was starting to feel the effects of losing established talents such as Shota Arveladze, who was replaced by the hapless Francis Jeffers.

Things didn’t look like getting much better on that November night on the Iberian peninsula, with the home side going ahead via two players who would go on to enjoy further success in the competition.

A José Bosingwa cross was met by Lisandro López’s head to put Porto ahead and, with Dado Pršo leading the list of Rangers injured strikers, McLeish was forced to throw on teenage forward McCormack for just his 10th first-team appearance and his first in Europe.

On 83 minutes, the gamble paid off as an overhit cross to the far post was kept alive by Chris Burke, whose cutback was pounced upon by the 19-year-old to score with Rangers’ only shot on target.

Speaking to the Daily Record years later, McLeish was eager to claim some of the praise for himself, both for keeping his side in the game despite the pressure on them and for the introduction of the players who combined for that priceless point.

“We were staring into the abyss and came out with an amazing result. We had a real skeleton crew of a squad because we had a load of injuries that season,” recalled the two-time Scotland manager.

“I had to bring a young boy, Ross McCormack, off the bench to get us the equaliser and take us towards the last 16 of the Champions League.

“Porto were a hell of a good side and we weren’t given a prayer. We had a very inexperienced side, a lot of players that probably wouldn’t have played if the first selections had been available, but they did the club proud.

“We had to hang on by the skin of our teeth but you need to do that sometimes. It was certainly a night that we will never forget.

“It was a great night for my managerial career in terms of a learning experience. That was probably one of my best nights in terms of tactics.”

Such was the gallus nature of youth, McCormack was quick to tell anyone on the journey home afterwards that, if he’d been thrown on sooner, he could have contributed more and the winless run may have ended that night.

It did go on a little longer but the point was to prove pivotal as it set Rangers up for a vital draw in their last group game against Inter to see them through to the last 16.

They became the first Scottish side ever to achieve that feat in the Champions League era.

“Doing that was a remarkable achievement when you look at our downgrading and our domestic form that year,” midfielder Alex Rae, the man substituted for McCormack at the Estádio do Dragão that night, recalled in 2019 in an interview with BBC Sport.

Without the timely intervention of McCormack in Porto, that silver lining in a difficult period may never have transpired.

While the striker’s time at Ibrox didn’t quite go as planned as he failed to build on his promising start, there will always be Porto.

3. Iain Ferguson, Barcelona v DUNDEE UNITED, 1986/87 UEFA Cup quarter-final second leg

Well-travelled forward Iain Ferguson had a habit for scoring important and memorable goals for Scottish sides in continental competition.

In the 1980s, he netted twice for Rangers against Inter in a 3-1 home win in the UEFA Cup, while he also claimed the winner against Bayern Munich for Hearts and netted against Broussia Mönchengladbach in the semi-final of the 1986/87 competition too.

But the one that stands out above the rest is his 89th-minute header that sunk Barcelona at the Camp Nou.

Incredibly, the Terrors didn’t actually *need* to score that goal, as their qualification for the semi-final was already secure without Ferguson’s intervention.

An audacious (some might say fortuitous, including many of his own team-mates) early Kevin Gallacher goal at Tannadice gave United a crucial advantage ahead of their trip to the Catalan capital to take on a side who had reached the European Cup final the previous year.

Barcelona levelled the tie when Ramón María Calderé’s deflected volley from a corner crept past Billy Thomson five minutes before half-time.

It was five minutes before full-time when tangerine dreams came true.

With extra-time beckoning, a free-kick from the left was met by a thundering header from John Clark.  That in turn was met by a thundering header of his own from manager Jim McLean, whose wild leap in celebration ended with a violent collision against the roof of the dugout.

Not that he will have minded too much, as his half-time claim that a United goal would cause a Barcelona collapse was about to come to fruition.

“They all seemed to be shouting at each other, arguing amongst themselves,” Maurice Malpas told the BBC in 2006.

“Gary Lineker was talking to somebody, one of our players, saying: ‘This mob’ll just chuck it,’” Ferguson told the same programme. “And, really, that’s more or less what they did.”

As McLean received treatment on the touchline, safe in the knowledge that Barça were never going to find the two goals they needed as a hostile crowd turned on them, things got even better.

In the final minute of normal time, Jim McInally released Paul Sturrock down the left and his floated cross to the far post was nodded downwards into the net by Ferguson, notching the most iconic of all his continental goals.

The 57-year-old is acutely aware of just how special that goal is and the special place in history it has given him – so much so that he has been forced to watch Celtic’s recent visits to the Camp Nou (and there have been plenty of them) with a twinge of anxiety.

“I think it surprises people when they sit down and talk to me and ask what my best goal was,” Ferguson said three years ago in an interview with The Scotsman.

“They are surprised if I don’t say Barcelona. Why must it be? It is an iconic goal because I am the last Scot to score against Barcelona in the Nou Camp and I do envisage that record outlasting me.

“I was watching when Celtic got a penalty earlier in the [2016/17] season and I was like: ‘I hope Scott Brown doesn’t take it.’ [Moussa] Dembélé stepped up and I thought: ‘He isn’t Scottish, he can score if he wants!’

“Big John Hartson, lovely fella, he scored there for Celtic. But he’s Welsh and he was offside! That goal can never be taken away from me. I don’t wallow in it. I don’t ask for publicity about it but it comes up now and again.”

While the Taysiders were already assured of progression without it, there’s no doubt that the night was made extra-special by the fact that they had won at Camp Nou – something no other Scottish club has managed.

That United were doing it for the second time in their history made it sweeter and, to this day, they are the only side ever to face Barcelona more than once in competitive matches and enjoy a perfect record, with four wins from four.

It would be 26 years before the Blaugrana lost both legs of another European knockout tie.

4. Bobby Kinloch, HIBERNIAN v Barcelona, 1960/61 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup quarter-final second leg

What is it about Barcelona and late drama against Scottish sides in Europe?

Their run-ins with clubs from these shores began in the quarter-final of the 1961 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup when they took on Hibernian.

It wasn’t quite a vintage Hibs, whose heyday of the Famous Five in the 1950s was behind them, but they were still a dangerous outfit – as evidenced by their showing in the first leg in Spain.

Inspired by two goals from Joe Baker, they led 4-2 at the Camp Nou with six minutes remaining only for two late Barça sucker punches to level it at 4-4 and leave the tie in the balance ahead of the return leg in Scotland’s capital.

Easter Road was treated to another high-scoring classic, the Hibees showing no signs of being the massive underdogs they had been portrayed as when the draw was made.

That probably wasn’t without reason. When the European Cup was introduced in the mid-1950s, Real Madrid won each of the first five editions from 1956 to 1960 until their great rivals Barcelona finally became the first team to eliminate them from the competition.

By stark contrast, Hibs had only earned their invitation to the Fairs Cup that year partially by way of reputation from previous Euro heroics but largely due to the fact that the city’s iconic Edinburgh Festival was classed as a trade fair.

Their route to that stage of the competition may have been unconventional but they were determined to make their mark and did so again when another Baker strike put them ahead but before half-time, before Eulogio Martínez and Sándor Kocsis struck for the visitors to put them in control.

Tommy Preston, who had scored in Spain, stepped up for the hosts on 74 minutes to level the tie again at 6-6 on aggregate, with rules at that time meaning a decisive play-off fixture loomed.

But, with five minutes to go, all hell broke loose.

Hibs were awarded a controversial penalty and the Barcelona players went apoplectic, furiously chasing German referee Johannes Malka to protest. 

Some even assaulted him, while other players became embroiled in physical altercations with police who had attempted to come to the terrified official’s aid.

“Johnny MacLeod had fallen with [Enric] Gensana in the penalty area and the award seemed somewhat harsh,” the Edinburgh Evening News said.

“To a man the Spaniards protested, chased the referee into the Hibs half of the field and back again to their own 18 yard line: he was pushed and buffeted, tripped, kicked, and twice struck on the chest by gesticulating fists.

“The police patrolling the track, more than 40 of them, joined in the fray and their Scottish phlegm was never more needed than in their efforts to calm the Barcelona team whose officials also pled for order.”

Accounts vary on the length of time between the award of the kick and it being taken. Guesses range from five to 13 minutes, with a 12-minute delay appearing closest to reality – meaning that it could well have been the 97th minute when the shot was taken.

Throughout the pandemonium unfolding around him, Bobby Kinloch appeared to be the calmest man inside Easter Road, nonchalantly sitting on the ball in the centre circle and watching the scenes with mild bemusement.

He had good reason to be so relaxed. The Glaswegian wasn’t his side’s designated penalty taker and didn’t have to worry about stepping up to the spot when order was restored.

But the man who was responsible from 12 yards, Sammy Baird, became so nervous during the hold-up about the impending kick that his anxiety manifested itself in embarrassing fashion.

“Sammy told me he couldn’t take it because he’d shit himself. I didn’t believe him but it turned out he had,” Kinloch told the Daily Record in 2008.

“He shouted to me: ‘Bobby, you take it,’ but I told him not to be stupid and just take it and stroke it home.

“I’ve kept that secret for all these years. I didn’t think it would be the done thing to announce to the press what had happened the day after the game.”

The confident way that Kinloch himself dispatched the kick surprised many inside the stadium, who weren’t confident about his prospects from the spot – or so he claimed.

“The whole crowd and the players thought I would miss the penalty. Pat Stanton, who later captained Hibs, was in the crowd and he will verify that he was going mental as I ran up to hit it,” recalled the former Greenock Morton man.

“Nobody expected me to score after so much time had elapsed and my priority was just to hit the back of the net.

“I couldn’t really lose because if I had missed we would have drawn and if I scored I would be the hero. I did score and we won a European tie against the mighty Barcelona.

“We all got a £90 bonus for that one match – our highest ever. I remember getting a load of nice crisp new fivers in a brown envelope.”

There was another pair of fivers on show as Hibs’ run was halted at the semi-final stage. After a 5-5 aggregate draw against Roma, they were surprisingly beaten 6-0 in a play-off in the Eternal City against the side who went on to win the tournament.

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