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Last Updated: Saturday, 22 May, 2004, 19:23 GMT 20:23 UK
Larsson's parting gift
By Clive Lindsay
BBC Sport at Hampden Park

Henrik Larsson takes the plaudits at Hampden
Hollywood, even Henrik Larsson himself, could not have dreamt up a more fitting script.

The Swede, in his final competitive game for Celtic, scored twice to haul his side back from a goal behind to Dunfermline Athletic - and to win the Scottish Cup for the 32nd time in his club's history.

It was the green light for the party the East End of Glasgow, two-thirds of Hampden Park, much of Ireland and a fair chunk of Scotland had wanted to see.

But, while those bedecked in the famous Hoops came to say farewell to a legend, those wearing black and white will remember coming mightily close to leaving the city having witnessed the birth of 11 new ones of their own.

More than 15,000 had travelled from Fife, some arriving seven hours before kick-off, to make sure they did not miss a minute of such a rare occasion - the Pars in a Scottish Cup final.

The picnic hampers, snaps taken in front of the famous steps of the National Stadium and Fife buses packing the car park long before 3pm gave the game away that this was their first such opportunity for 36 years.

By kick-off, they were to be outnumbered nearly three to one by those who travelled far and wide to pack the opposing stands but who could be forgiven for being more blasť about such an occasion.

Celtic arrived as strong favourites to complete the league and cup double in a season from which they have emerged head and shoulders above all their rivals in Scotland.

It looked like dreams of matching Dunfermline's cup-winning sides of 1961, when Celtic were their victims, and 1968 would be dashed in double-quick time as Chris Sutton sent a rasping shot into the arms of Derek Stillie only 50 seconds after the referee's first whistle.

Jimmy Calderwood's decision to pick a side full of footballers instead of trying to match Celtic's physical presence appeared to have backfired.

But these Pars were not here just to make up numbers and, despite Celtic dominating possession, created the better first-half chances, culminating in Andrius Skerla's opening goal made controversial by Derek Young's goalline challenge on goalkeeper David Marshall.

Dunfermline's Derek Young is in despair at the final whistle
Dunfermline thought they were on the way to victory
Big Country's "Fields of Fire" and The Skids' "Into the Valley" boomed out to fuel the half-time joy of those from the famous rock duo's home town.

But the Pars, their new strip being minus their traditional stripes, were soon to succumb to Celtic's stars in their shiny green away kit.

A missed hand ball in the Bhoys' box by Bobo Balde, two mistakes by 20-year-old former Newcastle United defender Aaron Labonte and Larsson's typically clinical finishing all but made sure Celtic would repeat their 1965 comeback to defeat Dunfermline.

The relief could be heard from Tyrone to Tiree, Stilian Petrov's third goal being no more than icing on the cake against a side that had by then seemed resigned to the bitter taste of defeat.

"Henrik Larsson, king of kings" went up the chant as the striker ended seven magnificent years with Celtic with the man of the match award and a joint lifting of the cup with captain Jackie McNamara.

And, as the Fifers trooped home wondering what might have been, Larsson's 40th and 41st goals of the season served only to emphasise to Celtic - players, manager and fans et al - how difficult such an exceptional footballer is going to be to replace.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Celtic manager Martin O'Neill
"Larsson was always going to make his mark on the final"


Celtic legend Henrik Larsson
"It has been a great seven years"




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