CELTIC were heading for the most humiliating result in the club’s history in this month 24 years ago when they lost 3-1 to Inverness Caley Thistle at Parkhead.
In another CQN EXCLUSIVE series, we look at the fall-out of the inexplicable Scottish Cup exit and examine the games that led up to the catastrophic result – and the welcome transformation that propelled Celtic into a new era.
Here is Part Five of edited extracts from Celtic author Alex Gordon’s tribute book, ‘The Winds of Change‘, which was published by CQN in 2015.
FIVE days after the seven-goal mauling of Aberdeen, Celtic lost 1-0 to Lyon in the first leg of their UEFA Cup Second Round tie at the Stade de Gerland.
The result was dismissed almost as a mere sideshow. The main concern was the fact Henrik Larsson had suffered a horrendous broken left leg and would be out for the remainder of the season.
Immediately, John Barnes said: “Whether we had lost 2-0 or won 2-0, it wouldn’t have mattered. What is important is that Henrik gets back to health and that’s all I’m focusing on at the moment.”
The Swede was carried off on a stretcher in obvious distress after a freak accident in the 11th minute when he chased back to tackle Serge Blanc. He appeared to catch his studs in the turf and went down writhing in pain.
HENRIK’S HORROR…Celtic’s talismanic striker Henrik Larsson yells in pain at the freak accident that ended in a broken leg as he challenges Lyon’s Serge Blanc.
The sheer horror on the faces of team-mates and opponents was a clear indication of how dreadfully his leg had been snapped. There was a silence on the pitch for some minutes.
“You could tell right away that it was serious because of the reaction of the players close to him,” said Barnes. “We didn’t tell the players until after the game how bad it was.”
Paul Lambert was close to the incident and added: “It’s an absolute shocker for Henrik. I saw his leg and it was not a very nice sight. It’s such a tragedy for him.
“He has been a wonderful player all the time I’ve been here. We just want to see him back as soon as possible.”
Mark Burchill, who replaced the Swede, said: “Henrik is such a great player and I cannot believe what has happened to him. It’s a tremendous blow to lose anyone as good as him. I hope we can do the business while he’s out.”
Burchill, in fact, was involved in a moment of high controversy when he was sent crashing in the penalty box in the first-half. Mark Viduka released his eager team-mate who raced towards the exposed Gregory Coupet, touched the ball past him and prepared to follow through with the move when he was upended by the keeper.
MOMENTS FROM CONTROVERSY…Mark Burchill races clear on the Lyon goal.
Dutch referee Rene Temmink didn’t agree with the penalty shout from the 4,000 travelling fans in the 42,000 crowd. He provoked gasps of disbelief when he produced the yellow card to book Burchill for diving and awarded a free-kick to the French.
The Celt insisted: “It was a definite penalty-kick. I was through on goal and had gone round him. All I had to do was hit the ball into the net. Why would I go down at that point? I couldn’t believe it when the referee booked me.”
With a sledgehammer slice of sarcasm, Barnes, who thought TV pictures proved conclusively it was a spot-kick, said acidly: “Mark has apologised to us for going round their keeper, getting kicked, falling to the ground and getting booked.”
Lyon got the evening’s only goal in the 63rd minute when thoughtful midfielder Vikash Dhorasoo, for once eluding his marker Lambert, pushed a pass into the tracks of Blanc who left Jonathan Gould stranded with a vicious left-foot effort that soared high into the net.
It was a gallant show by Celtic, but the sickening injury to Larsson, the country’s top scorer with 13 goals and the club’s talisman, made it a depressing journey home.
The following day, after surgery at Bon Seccours hospital in Glasgow, it was revealed both bones in the Swede’s lower leg were fractured.
Larsson wouldn’t play again until the last day of the season on May 21 2000.
* TOMORROW: Don’t miss Result That Changed The Course Of Celtic History: Part Six.