In a new series for this season, each week St Anthony will look back at a corresponding Celtic fixture from the past. With Dundee due to visit Parkhead this Sunday, he looks back to a high scoring Celtic display against the Dens Park side from 1998.
7 November 1998 Celtic 6-1 Dundee Attendance: 58,093
As Celtic fans turned out in huge numbers for the visit of Dundee you would imagine there would have been a feeling of despondency following the Celts’ ignominious dismissal from the UEFA cup just days earlier, when they had lost 4-2 to FC Zurich in Switzerland. However, the shock news from Parkhead late on that Saturday morning was that Celtic’s General Manager, Jock Brown, had left the club by mutual consent. This was enough to ensure that the majority of the Celtic fans attending would now be in good voice given that the abrasive Brown was never the most favourable character in the eyes of many supporters.
The fans were indeed in fine fettle and there was a better atmosphere at this game than had been at any home fixture so for that season. The interesting team news was that Celtic had two debutants in their team who went on to have vastly contrasting Celtic careers. The first was the young 21 year old goalkeeper, Andy McCondichie from the Celtic youth set up. The other was the vastly experienced 33 year old Lubomir Moravcik, whose recent signing from MSV Duisburg had saw enormous media and fan criticism heaped on both Jock Brown and the manager, Jozef Venglos, for signing a player reckoned to be well past his best.
One other Celtic player was causing much interest at that time. Mark Burchill was Celtic’s best youth prospect for many years and the pacy striker, who had earned comparison’s with Liverpool’s Michael Owen, was given a starting place after some impressive displays appearing as a substitute. The fact that expensive Norwegian striker, Harald Brattbakk was not performing to the desired standard, was another factor in Burchill’s selection.
Everything clicked into place for Celtic on a fine late autumn afternoon. The team were clearly lifted from the vocal support in the stands and responded accordingly. Burchill’s pace caused Dundee’s defence problems from the start and within 18 minutes he had been impeded twice in the area by Dundee defenders to earn Celtic a brace of penalties. The second one was enough to earn ex Celt Barry Smith a red card, with both spot kicks finely executed by a certain Henrik Larsson. Eddie Annand gave Dundee hope with a goal after 22 minutes but Celtic increased their lead when Burchill got the goal he deserved after running clear on goal from Moravcik’s pass.
In the second half Burchill made it 4-1 with a neat finish then in 58 minutes came the goal of the game. Moravcik, who had impressed all game with his fine movement and distribution, whipped over an outrageous cross from the left wing, with the outside of his right foot, for Henrik Larsson to score with a spectacular diving header. It’s no exaggeration to say that there were gasps from the crowd at Moravcik’s execution of the cross. It was a long time since fans at Parkhead had viewed such an impressive debut from a Celtic player.
Simon Donnelly rounded off the scoring and Celtic went down the gears at 6-1. Both Burchill and Moravcik were taken off, allowing the crowd to show their appreciation for their fine efforts on the day. The media made a lot of the fact that Celtic had never scored 6 goals in Jock Brown’s time at the club and now they had scored 6 in the first game since his departure.
It has to be acknowledged that Brown was never a popular character with Celtic supporters. He never set out to win popularity contest with either the media or the fans but I wonder, with hindsight, that he should be entitled to more credit than he received at the time. He negotiated many favourable transfers without any hitches (Larsson, Rieper, Lambert, Burley and finally Moravcik) and much to the frustration of the media, and to the delight of the Celtic fans, he stopped infuriating leaks to the media which had riddled Celtic for a long time.
However, the main memory of the afternoon will always belong to Moravcik. Ask any Celtic fan about their recollection of this game and they won’t say it was Larsson’s hat trick or Burchill’s sharp finishing, it was Lubo with his subline technique and his cross for Larsson’s goal. Celtic fans may not have realised it but a legend had begun that day, even at the ripe old age of 33. Lubo would give Celtic supporters many happy memories in the seasons to come.