Football: Scots savour happy returns: Celtic and Hearts lead the way as clubs north of the border make striking progress in Europe. Phil Shaw reports

Click to follow
The Independent Online
LIAM BRADY'S customary cool finally deserted him at the end of a night of raw nerves and naked emotions at Parkhead. 'Those guys were chuckling at me when we lost in Cologne,' the Celtic manager said, pointing at a German journalist. 'They're not laughing now.'

Although Brady is an Irishman, who learned his football in England and refined it in Italy, he might have been speaking for Scotland in the light of excellent European victories by Rangers, Celtic and Heart of Midlothian. On the morning after the night before, he did exactly that.

'The three results will give everyone in the country a lift,' Brady said. 'It may be that we've been overtaken in technical ability, even by the Scandinavians, but our teams have more heart, resilience and fight. The Continentals can't match it, though unfortunately they are catching up.'

Since Dundee United reached the Uefa Cup final in 1987 and Rangers the European Cup's last eight a year later, the record of Scottish clubs has been such that it would make you laugh if it did not make you cry. Even Cyprus matched their second-round representation - one - last year.

In that context, and with the national side's recent Swiss flop in mind, a pass rate of 60 per cent was good for Scottish self-esteem (as well as being better than English clubs managed). More important than the statistic, however, was the style with which it was achieved.

The real swagger came in the Uefa Cup from Celtic, who overturned a 2-0 deficit to put out Cologne, and Hearts, who beat Slavia Prague 4-2 to squeeze through 4-3 on aggregate.

After some poor domestic performances, the big European stage tricked Celtic into a display which had echoes of an earlier decade. The 31,000 crowd must have sounded to the Germans like the 75,000 who used to pack Parkhead on such nights in Jock Stein's time, and the illusion was complete when John Collins jinked through to score the last of three stunning goals.

While Brady called it 'the most satisfying result since I've been here', his Hearts counterpart, Joe Jordan, another who has tasted life at the top in Italy, enthused about 'my best night as a manager'. Hearts went through with a spectacular late goal by Glynn Snodin, once of Leeds, who was making his European debut at 32.

Scott Crabbe, a non-playing substitute, was so caught up in the excitement that he hurled his maroon shirt to the crowd. It was the striker's parting shot: he joined Dundee United yesterday, with pounds 215,000 and midfielder Allan Preston going the opposite way.

Rangers' 2-0 first-leg lead over Lyngby did not call for the cavalier approach in Copenhagen. The champions gave a typically solid, resourceful performance and claimed victory on the night through Ian Durrant's late goal. They will also have their captain, Richard Gough, fit for the next round.

Walter Smith, the Rangers manager, hopes to avoid Milan, the favourites, and Barcelona, the holders. 'After those two I feel the standard is fairly similar, and we'd be happy to take our chances with anyone,' he said. 'I don't mind a tough tie - Scottish clubs often respond positively to that. We certainly prefer it to being regarded as favourites.'

Nor were the two losers disgraced. Indeed, Hibernian achieved arguably the best away result of any Scottish side in Europe in recent years, drawing 1-1 in the Uefa Cup with Anderlecht, only for the Belgians to win on away goals.

Airdrieonians, trailing 1-0 from the home leg, lost 2-1 to Sparta Prague, missed a penalty and had the discomfiting experience of having to stand in silence for a minute as a mark of respect for the late Fifa vice-president, Herman Neuberger. Nothing odd there - except that the game was seven minutes old when the public-address system called for quiet.

But Airdrie, like Hibs and the trio of survivors, would give anything to be in the same situation a year from now.