Well, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a penalty shoot out quite like it (watch it here). After a pitched battle that remained goalless after extra-time Celtic and Dundee United found themselves embroiled in the football equivalent of the national lottery in order to decide who would meet Rangers in the Scottish League Cup final.
After 5 penalties each the score was tied at 5-5 so sudden death was the order of the day and I was already wearing a track in the kitchen floor. At 8-8, it looked as if it would go on all night but then Boruc saved Lee Wilkie’s rather weak penalty to give Celtic the edge. However Loovens’ penalty wasn’t much better and Zaluska saved to keep the score at 8-8 after 9 penalties each. It was going to go on all night!
Before much longer, though, it was 9-9 and all 10 outfield players had taken a penalty leaving the goalies to have a crack. I expected at least one of them to make a total arse of things as keepers aren’t really known for their goal-scoring skills. But Zaluska stepped up and drilled a low penalty into the bottom-left corner sending Boruc the wrong way. I felt sure that Boruc would miss and started preparing myself for Celtic’s exit from the Cup. However he stepped up and took the best penalty of the night, calmly stroking the ball into the “postage stamp” – top-right corner of the goal – where it’s almost impossible to save. And that made the score 10-10.
Time for Willo Flood to take is second penalty of the night as the merry-go-round started it’s second spin. Despite having played well all night, the pressure got the better of him and he hit the ball too high, it bounced of the bar and away handing Celtic the advantage for the second time. Scott Macdonald stepped up as the tension mounted. I could barely watch. The little Aussie placed the ball on the spot, turned away and walked a few paces before pausing, turning back and…
…slotting the ball into the back of the net!
What a bloody relief!
I’d love to say that I felt for Dundee United at that moment but I didn’t. As the nervous tension ebbed away all I could think was about how much I hate penalty-bloody-shootouts!
Looking back, Dundee United played a hell of a game and Craig Levein got his tactics spot on. His players did not allow Celtic time on the ball and harassed them constantly, preventing Celtic’s key men from playing. The dreadful condition of the pitch helped Dundee United too as the ball bobbled and bounced all over the place, forcing players to take an extra touch or two in order to keep it under control. Both teams had chances but neither side could capitalize and a draw after extra-time was a fair result.
Now it’s on to the first Old Firm final in a while on the 15th of March.