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Friday, 7 February, 2003, 00:15 GMT
O'Neill relishes 'big enemy' clash
Bobo Balde (left) celebrates his two goals
O'Neill told Bobo Balde (left) to go forward
Celtic boss Martin O'Neill believes his own tactical change swung the CIS Cup semi-final against Dundee United in his side's favour to set up a clash with what he described as "the big enemy".

But recently-appointed United manager Ian McCall vowed that his own side would return to Hampden under his charge a stronger threat than they were on Thursday.

And he insisted that central defender Jim Lauchlan deserved the red card that effectively ended his side's challenge this time round.

United were giving a good account of themselves until a three-minute spell in the second half, when central defender Bobo Balde scored the first of his two goals then Lauchlan was sent packing for a late challenge on the other goalscorer, Henrik Larsson.

Now we are playing in the final against the big enemy

Celtic boss Martin O'Neill
O'Neill said: "I changed things about a bit in the second half and told Bobo Balde that, if he he got the chance to go with the ball, to do so and he ended up with two goals.

"We did not play particularly well in the first half, we squandered possession too easily and allowed Dundee United to settle.

"The first goal was vital for us.

"We almost went out on penalties a couple of rounds ago against Partick Thistle, but now we are playing in the final against the big enemy."

O'Neill again categorically denied fresh rumours linking him with the Liverpool job following the Anfield club's FA Cup defeat by Crystal Palace.

He also explained away the surprise omission of Stilian Petrov from the semi-final squad by saying that the Bulgarian midfielder, whose contract talks have stalled, had simply been rested.

I cannot fault the effort and commitment of my players

United boss Ian McCall
McCall preferred to look at the positives from defeat and praised one of his young defenders.

"I had heard about Mark Wilson before I came here," he said.

"But, at 18 years of age, he is an outstanding footballer."

McCall thought the red card had been a turning point and said: "I cannot fault the effort and commitment of my players.

"In my time at Dundee United, this will not be the last time I will be here and we will be even harder and better next time."


See also:

13 Feb 03 | Scotland
13 Feb 03 | Scotland
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