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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 May, 2003, 00:01 GMT 01:01 UK
Brave Bhoys can take pride
By Alasdair Lamont
BBC Sport in Seville

Paul Lambert cannot hide his dejection after the final
Paul Lambert rues Celtic's loss

For Celtic, the dream has finally ended. But what a dream it was, and how close it came to coming true.

Pride, rather than disappointment, rightly appears to be the prevalent mood of the Celtic support that was still occupying three-quarters of the Estadio Olimpico long after the final whistle has sounded.

This was a performance that deserved more than a collection of runner-up medals.

Celtic's display was courageous and spirited - the performance of a team of winners.

This despite an intense heat that scarcely dipped below oppressive - and that was just in the stands.

The first half was unremarkable and Porto perhaps deserved their narrow lead.

But the second half was nothing short of astonishing as twice Celtic equalised after it seemed Porto had done enough by edging ahead.

All this at a pace that defied the sizzling temperature and a long season that has been extended by this remarkable Uefa Cup run.

Disconsolate Celtic boss Martin O'Neill
Larsson added to his lustre with two goals
Even when the game went into extra time and Bobo Balde was ordered off, Celtic's energy levels remained high and it seemed that the 10 men might hold out and take the game to penalties.

Porto played the better football on a pitch that had been heavily criticised beforehand, correctly so, for it did not do justice to an occasion such as this.

Few could deny them the trophy, but it is difficult to feel anything other than deep sympathy for the legions of Celtic fans who made the journey to Spain from far and wide.

Their support was truly magnificent throughout, although they stopped short of applauding the winners, after the game was soured by a series of dives and over-reactions by the Portuguese players.

This was the one sour note, for a team as talented as Porto should not need to resort to such tactics.

But that is the way of the modern game and it has become a new method of gaining the advantage over less wily opposition.

So, this was a disappointing finale to an historic cup run, but the Celtic players have taken a huge step on behalf of Scottish football, which has so long been in the European doldrums.

It is to be hoped that both Celtic and Rangers can follow this achievement by making an impression on next season's Champion's League.

Othewise, all of Martin O'Neill's men's efforts may have been in vain, and that would be an even greater disappointment.




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BBC Five Live's Simon Brotherton
"Bitter tears for Celtic"



CELTIC

SEE ALSO
Uefa Cup final photos
21 May 03  |  Photo Galleries

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