DRAWING BOARD VICTORY
Celtic 1, Rangers 0
by Jim Reynolds
As controversy still raged around Saturday's Scottish Cup-winning goal at Hampden Park, a steady stream of wellwishers from places such as Swansea, Blackpool, Birmingham, and Luton moved through the corridors of Parkhead yesterday. They had to check themselves from bowing at the feet of Jock Stein as the Celtic manager emerged from his office to conduct his Sunday press conference.
"There is always controversy when a match is won in such a fashion," said Stein, "but we are all convinced that it was a penalty. Andy Lynch scored, and the prize is in there," added Stein, pointing towards the trophy room where the Scottish Cup joined the Premier League championship trophy for the first time.
The 1977 final will not go down in history as one of the classics . . . there was too much tension for that . . . but it provided high excitement for the lowest post-war attendance for such an occasion -- a crowd cut to 54,252 because of lashing rain and live television coverage.
Stein commented, "It was not a good final. We had to change things round a bit because of the injury to Ronnie Glavin, and it was a game in which we tried to curtail Rangers and they tried to do the same with us. Our planning paid off and I am particularly happy for the lads who have just won their first Scottish Cup medal."
If ever a match was won on the drawing board it was this one, and once again Stein proved that he is the master architect of football planning.
Johannes Edvaldsson, the Icelandic Internationalist, who had never previously played in a winning side against Rangers, was brought in to mark Derek Johnstone. He had his finest hour in a Celtic jersey, making Johnstone as ineffective as I have seen him. Edvaldsson also caused a lot of trouble for the Rangers defence when he moved forward for set-pieces.
Roddy McDonald was given the job of taking care of Derek Parlane, Rangers' other danger in the air. McDonald emerged as the man of the match with a brilliant display and, like Edvaldsson, put the Rangers defence under severe pressure when he moved forward.
Danny McGrain had one of his quieter matches, but this was because Alex MacDonald did such a good job in blocking off the full back's route down the right. Ironically, this also suited Celtic, for MacDonald has scored some vital goals in Old Firm matches. On Saturday he was too busy taking care of McGrain to make much positive contribution.
Stein's surprise move in bringing back Paul Wilson was also a winner. Wilson is so unpredictable that he must be watched at all times, and it is a tribute to his contribution that Tom Forsyth emerged as Rangers' man of the match. Forsyth, for me, can join McGrain and Kenny Dalglish as Scots who are true world-class players.
Sandy Jardine and Alfie Conn, who has made history by gaining a winner's medal with both Rangers and Celtic, practically cancelled out one another, and so a match which should have been bursting with flair took on a chessboard look.
Celtic were the first side to settle, and that is always a vital factor in a cup final. In the face of a gale they constantly probed away at the Rangers defence and were well on top when the moment of high drama came.
With 20 minutes gone Conn swung over a corner from the left. McDonald headed back across goal and the ball was only partially cleared by Stewart Kennedy. Edvaldsson charged in and his shot beat the goalkeeper, but was handled on the line by Johnstone.
Referee Valentine had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot, and despite Rangers' furious protests, I feel that the referee was correct.
While the protests were going on, the Celtic players were holding hurried consultations. Their regular penalty expert, Glavin, was absent, and it was expected that Dalglish, the captain, would take on the responsibility.
Andy Lynch, who volunteered to take the kick, had taken only two penalties in his career. Both of them were for Hearts, his previous club -- and he missed them. It was third time lucky, however, for Lynch, who showed no signs of nerves as he cracked the ball past Kennedy with his left foot.
Rangers changed their tactics after the interval, moving John Greig in front of the central defenders, but that left a gap at the back, which Celtic quickly spotted. Instead of attacking down the wings, they pumped long balls through the middle and on at least two occasions should have scored.
With 19 minutes left, Rangers produced a substitution as a last effort to save the game. Young Chris Robertson came in for Kenny Watson, and he almost gave the Ibrox club the draw, which they thought they deserved. Robertson's header which cannoned back off the bar in the closing stages was one of the few highlights.
Four players were booked -- Stanton and Aitken (Celtic) and McLean and Parlane (Rangers) -- but Mr Valentine again proved to be an inconsistent referee and let more persistent offenders get away unpunished.
With Celtic seemingly on course for another era of glory, the big question is: Where do Rangers go from here? Jock Wallace has stood by the side who won the treble last season, but as each trophy has vanished off the Ibrox sideboard it has become more and more obvious that several of the players have not repaid the loyalty shown by the manager.
At least one new face is need before Rangers go trophy-hunting at home and in Europe next season. Class players are hard to find -- at a reasonable cost -- but Celtic, buying wisely, are again at the top of the heap, and Rangers must try something similar.
CELTIC -- Latchford, McGrain, Lynch, Stanton, McDonald, Aitken, Dalglish, Edvaldsson, Craig, Wilson, and Conn. Substitutes -- Doyle and Burns.
RANGERS -- Kennedy, Jardine, Greig, Forsyth, Jackson, Watson, McLean, Hamilton, Parlane, MacDonald, and Johnstone. Substitutes -- Robertson and Miller.
Referee -- R. B. Valentine (Dundee).