Wednesday, April 17, 2024

REWIND: The 2002 Lovenkrands Final

In May 2002, Rangers faced Celtic in the Scottish Cup Final at Hampden Park in Glasgow. Nobody could have predicted the outcome of the match, or the last minute game changer that was Peter Lovenkrands.

We take a look back at the game, the talking points – and, of course, that last minute winner.


The build up to the game in itself was really interesting. Alex McLeish had been appointed manager the previous December and had already managed to win the League Cup.

Martin O’Neil had just bagged the domestic title for Celtic, and the team at the time had some stellar talents such as Chris Sutton, John Hartson, Henrik Larsson, and Paul Lambert but to name a few!

Of course, on the other side, Rangers weren’t short of a few top players: Ronald De Boer, Artur Numan, Barry Ferguson, Lorenzo Amoruso, Stefan Klos, Claudio Caniggia read like a who’s who of international Football.

The scene was set in front of a crowd of 51,000 expectant fans. There was no such thing as a “neutral” inside the stadium.

The line ups were interesting. Lovenkrands was a “must start” for Rangers, alongside some other stars such as Ronald De Boer, who’d shrugged off a broken toe to play his part in the game. Alfredo Morelos wouldn’t even have heard of Rangers in 2002, I’m sure!

Celtic had worries of their own, Chris Sutton was drafted in at Centre Back, and Paul Lambert overcame injury to make the starting line up. Of course, the front two of Larsson and John Hartson were no slouches!

It all Kicks Off

..but not in the way that people were expecting. It was frenetic. Never stopping. You couldn’t take your eye off the game for a second.

As might be expected in Old Firm games, the game started and kept going at a rate of knots.

Nobody was backing down, and the spoils were equal for the first 18 minutes.

Hartson Heads The Class

John Hartson popped up to head in the opener on 19 minutes. At his peak he was powerful and almost unplayable at times, and so he proved as he powered a header by the helpless Stefan Klos.

Rangers Hit Back Quickly

As if they were spurred into action, within 2 minutes, Rangers were level. Capitalising on a mix up in defence, Peter Lovenkrands stepped up and drilled an unstoppable low show to the left of a helpless Rab Douglas.

Suddenly it was game on, no quarter given, no tackle left unmade.

Lovenkrands was getting chance after chance – it seemed that the tactics of having a pacy front three was causing more issues, particularly with an obviously half fit Paul Lambert playing, and Chris Sutton playing at Centre back.

Even though Rangers lost Claudio Caniggia to injury during the match, ably replaced by Shota Arveladze, the mercurial Georgian, this did little to disrupt the dangers that the Ibrox side posed.

Celtic had a few good chances of their own, and Petrov and Lennon worked diligently in midfield to counter the threat – not to mentioned the “cultured” left foot of Alan Thompson (“cultured left foot” = The right foot is for standing on, by the way!)

Lambert Injured

Paul Lambert was struggling with injury prior to the game, and eventually he had to go off with 2 minutes to spare in the first half, following Claudio Caniggia into the dressing room.

This change was to prove crucial, Celtic weren’t able to dominate the game in the middle of the park as they were accustomed to, with Barry Ferguson growing in influence throughout the game.

Balde Strikes, Rangers Pin Celtic Back

Bobo Balde, so often the denier and pillar of strength at the back for Celtic, powered above Amoruso, to head the bhoys ahead past a helpless Stefan Klos.

This goal would prove to be the only positive point for a Celtic support who were increasingly concerned as their heroes were being dominated all over the pitch.

Ferguson Steps Up

However, this was just the start of the pressure that Rangers were able to apply. Barry Ferguson, who was increasingly influential as the game wore on, first hit the post, then scored a sumptuous free kick, which you can see below.

I can’t help thinking that Rab Douglas was hopelessly out of position for this goal – but it was an absolutely amazing free kick. I spent long enough as a footballer trying to replicate that, as I’m sure many others have since that point!

Two all – Extra time beckons

In the last 15 minutes, it’s all Rangers, Celtic can’t keep a hold of the ball. Even the Celtic fans admit that in retrospect!

They manage to hold out, and the match is heading towards extra time, everyone is ready for an extra 30 minutes of end to end football. The fans are expectant, just waiting for the final whistle, ready to cheer their heroes in extra time.

Ultimate Last Minute Dream Goal

In the last seconds of the last minute of added on time, certain players have other ideas about extra time!

Step up Neil McCann and Peter Lovenkrands, and this happens:

This was a moment that broke hearts in the green end of Glasgow, and sparked mass celebrations among the Rangers fans. A well taken goal, and a moment that lives on forever as one of the great last minute game changers!

The whole game was electrifying, it never let up for one moment. It quite rightly is described as a modern classic.

Will there be other last minute heart breakers like this one? Who can tell, we certainly hope so – and from this writer’s perspective, as long as it’s a Rangers player scoring the goal!

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