ON THIS DAY 2009 - CELTIC 2-0 RANGERS
15TH MARCH 2009
Today could have been a day of glory. A day where a 9th consecutive title was all but won. However, with bigger things taking priority, today has turned into the biggest anti-climax in the history of the Glasgow derby
Therefore, with all football suspended for the foreseeable future and the third Rangers game of the season postponed for the next few months at least, we’ve decided to take a look back to another derby victory on this day 11 years ago to try and fill the void - Gordon Strachan’s last trophy as Celtic manager in the League Cup final of 2009.
The 15th March 2009 was very different from today in several ways but remarkably similar in others. A Labour government were in charge at Westminster and Barack Obama had just been inaugurated as the first-ever African American President. However - just like 2020 - the Hoops were still top of the table and chasing another consecutive title as they turned their attentions to an important game in the form of a League Cup final at Hampden against their city rivals.
It wasn’t all positive for Celtic going into the game though as only a week previously, Strachan’s men had fallen to an embarrassing 1-0 defeat at the hands of St Mirren in the Scottish cup. Fans were starting to lose patience with Strachan and despite a title in each of his first three years and two magnificent European campaigns, by March 2009, results were starting to worsen and the football on show was beginning to become tiresome to a lot of supporters.
That wasn’t to say that Celtic weren’t going into the game with high hopes. The Hoops sat atop the SPL after regaining control with a 2-1 victory at Kilmarnock as Rangers were toppled at Ibrox by Inverness with a young Ian Black netting a late winner. Therefore, with both teams coming into the match on the back of some rocky form, it was anyone’s game as the sides headed to Hampden.
Gordon Strachan and Walter Smith, despite both being veterans of the derby at this point, were making their debuts in an Old Firm cup final and with Celtic having not beaten Rangers in a Hampden final for 20 years, this was a game with a little more back story than usual.
Strachan, as he tended to do, threw in a few surprises before the match with the unfancied Glen Loovens coming in at centre half and Gary Caldwell being deployed in the middle of the midfield. Considering this was a must-win game for Strachan as he tried to keep the supporters on his side, it was a strange move. But one that would ultimately pay off.
Celtic dominated what was an extremely tense affair but despite having the lion’s share of possession and chances, they could not find the breakthrough in normal time on a typically shocking Hampden pitch. The aforementioned Glen Loovens went close from a corner and the ever-reliable Nakamura almost scored from a free-kick but even as Celtic attacked Rangers time and time again, a typical Walter Smith defensive display held firm as it so often had, frustrating Celtic.
This wasn’t the Celtic side of the 1990s that Smith was used to beating, however, and despite Rangers going close at the end of normal time though Barry Ferguson, that would be as good as it got for the Ibrox side as Celtic took a deserved lead at the start of extra time.
Only 60 seconds after the restart, Darren O’Dea headed in from a Nakamura free-kick to silence the blue half of Hampden. It was a career-defining moment for the Irishman on the weekend of St Patrick’s Day and sent Celtic well on the way to their first cup final win against Rangers since 1989.
There was no doubt - even with almost half an hour to go - that the cup would be heading to the east end of the city and that would be confirmed as a late Aiden McGeady penalty put the shine on a win that Celtic so thoroughly deserved.
For Strachan, it was a vindication of his tactics but it would prove to be his ‘last hurrah’ as Celtic boss as his ageing side proceeded to throw away a fourth successive title that should have been within their grasp over the remaining months of the season.
At the time though, it was another fantastic trophy for a Celtic team that had brought so much glory to the Hoops’ support over the past three and a half years and the end of any potential treble hopes that Rangers would have that season.
It was a day to remember for the Celtic fans and with the following season being one to forget, it would be the last time the fans were given the opportunity to celebrate a trophy win for over two years.
This truly was the end of a great era for Celtic and while the Hoops would go from strength to strength in the next decade, an Old Firm cup win was the crowning glory for Strachan’s side who had given the Celtic support their most consistent period of success since the great side of Jock Stein up until that point.
It would be another six years before the League Cup found its way back to Parkhead and another ten before the Celts recorded another derby win in a final at Hampden. This truly was a great victory and one that would take a long time to emulate again even in the most successful domestic decade of Celtic’s history.
OTHER GAMES ON THIS DAY
2015 – CELTIC 2-0 DUNDEE UNITED – SCOTTISH LEAGUE CUP FINAL
Celtic celebrated another League Cup triumph on this day in 2015 as Ronny Deila claimed his first trophy as Celtic manager with a comfortable 2-0 win over Dundee United at Hampden. A scrappy Kris Commons effort was followed up by a James Forrest goal in the second half and the Celts even had time to miss a penalty as they strolled to their first League Cup in 6 years.
1998 – CELTIC 1-1 DUNDEE UNITED – SCOTTISH PREMIER DIVISION
This Hoops dropped two points in their quest to stop 10 in a row with a 1-1 draw at home to Dundee United as a Simon Donnelly strike was cancelled out by Kjell Olofsson. Celtic would remain top of the league though and would of course go on to win the league at the end of the season.
1986 – CELTIC 1-1 DUNDEE UNITED – SCOTTISH PREMIER DIVISION
Celtic’s previous fixture on this day also happened to be a 1-1 draw with Dundee United, this time in 1986. Just like 12 years later, Celtic were also gunning for the title, although this time they were up against Hearts. A late equaliser from Murdo MacLeod was enough to keep the Celts in the hunt and they would go on to clinch the title in dramatic fashion with a 5-0 win at Love Street on the final day of the season.
1961 – HIBERNIAN 0-1 CELTIC – SCOTTISH CUP
Over 39,000 fans crammed into East Road to see Celtic defeat Hibs 1-0 in a Scottish Cup quarter-final replay thanks to a first-ever Celtic goal for future Lisbon Lion, John Clark.