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"I could’ve walked on air that night" | Celtic legends on 2003 UEFA Cup run

Three Celtic legends Neil Lennon, Chris Sutton and Stiliyan Petrov talked about their favourite m...


"I could’ve walked on air that night" | Celtic legends on 2003 UEFA Cup run

Three Celtic legends Neil Lennon, Chris Sutton and Stiliyan Petrov talked about their favourite memories of the club's famous run to the UEFA Cup final in 2003.

Martin O'Neill's side took several high-profile scalps on their way to the final in Seville where they faced Jose Mourinho's Porto.

"It was an incredible journey for us," Petrov said at OTB Sport's UEFA Champions League Final preview night in association with Pepsi Max and Doritos.

One of the Celtic players who predated O'Neill's arrival in the summer of 2000, Stiliyan Petrov remembered their second-round tie against Blackburn particularly fondly.

The then Blackburn manager Graeme Souness had irritated the Celtic squad before the second leg of the tie by saying the first game had been "men against boys", despite the English club's 1-0 defeat to their Scottish opponents.

"Neil Lennon, Chris Sutton, Alan Thompson and Johnny Hartson had played in England and they wanted to show that they were no boys," Petrov said.

"The intensity of the training the week before that game was incredible. I’ve never seen anything like that. I felt anybody we’d come up against, we’d beat. 

"We had so many special players and they were ready to perform. They were ready to go and fight."  

Celtic beat Blackburn 2-0 in the second leg thanks to goals from Sutton and Henrik Larsson.

"There were just so many highlights along the way," recalled now Celtic manager Neil Lennon. 

"Beating Liverpool at Anfield was special but the final whistle at Boavista in the semi-final was incredible. That was the first time in the competition that we were actually favourites, any other round we were the underdog.

"To know you were going to a European final with Celtic was incredible."

Celtic beat Boavista 2-1 on aggregate to book their place in the final. Lennon recalled the scenes of Celtic fans in the airport as they were returning home.

"The atmosphere walking through the airport terminal was just incredible," he explained, "I could’ve walked on air that night.

"For the next three or four days it was just a brilliant feeling that we had so much to look forward to. We played Rangers on the Sunday and we beat them as well. Those three or four days were just some of the best of my life."

Celtic couldn't cap the dream run with a victory in the final as lost 3-2 to Porto after extra-time.

"The run to the final was brilliant and the support in Seville was fantastic. Going to the stadium, just wonderful memories, a sea of green and white scarves and flags," Chris Sutton said.

"All brilliant but when you get to a major final, you want to win. Unfortunately we didn’t do that. In fairness, I think Porto were a good team but they got up to some fairly unsavoury antics which have never really sat right with the Celtic supporters."

Petrov echoed Sutton's words on the disappointment of losing the final.

"I remember we didn’t win it, that was the heartbreak," he said.

"We did everything we could, we played against a very strong team and we were very proud of ourselves. We managed to be there, we brought so many fans with us and we created a very memorable day for everyone."  

Check out OTB Sports UEFA Champions League Final preview across our social channels all weekend, in association with Pepsi Max and Doritos. It’s Back, Get Ready #UCLisBack

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Celtic Chris Sutton Martin O'Neill Neil Lennon Porto Stiliyan Petrov UEFA Cup