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Semi Stories: Scottish Cup Semi-Final Victories

Number 5: Celtic 2 Heart of Midlothian 1 April 9th 1988

Mark McGhee, just about to score the equaliser

Our series leading up to this weekend's Scottish Cup semi final concludes with a legendary victory in the centenary season of 1987-88.

Billy McNeill once said that there is a 'fairy tale aspect' to Celtic, and this was certainly true when he lead Celtic in the centenary season of 1987-88, which featured many never say die victories and last minute goals, this game in particular being a prime example.

Hearts were actually Celtic's closest league challengers this season, and would finish in second place in the premier league, and one week after this game would defeat Celtic at Tynecastle to prevent us clinching the league title, so this game was always going to be difficult, indeed Hearts created a chance in the opening seconds, with Bonner having to save a Galloway header. Celtic found it hard to create chances in an edgy first-half, the only chance of note being a long-range Andy Walker shot which Henry Smith saved easily.

Celtic started the second-half in better shape, and missed a great chance when a bad touch from Frank McAvennie allowed Smith to make a save when he was clean through on goal. Despite Celtic's bright start to the second-half, Hearts took the lead under very controversial circumstances on the hour mark.

A Hearts corner was cleared to just outside the penalty box, and Brian Whittaker lofted the ball back into the box, where Dave McPherson seemed to impede Pat Bonner as the ball went into the net. It seemed like an obvious foul, but referee Kenny Hope allowed the goal to stand, and Celtic's dreams of the Double hung in the balance.

Billy McNeill made his one and only substitute in the 68th minute, with Mark McGhee - a frequent goalscorer against Hearts - replacing Joe Miller. Despite this attacking change, Celtic were finding it hard to create any chances. The one real chance fell to Frank McAvennie, who headed well over the bar when presented with a free header after a great cross by McGhee.

It looked like Hearts' day until the 87th minute, when the equaliser finally arrived. Henry Smith failed to gather a corner and the ball broke to Mark McGhee, who with his back to goal managed to find the space to turn and hit a shot which somehow found the back of the net despite the presence of three Hearts players on the line. The hammer of Hearts had done it again!

Most teams would have been satisfied with the prospect of a replay, but not this Celtic team, who were determined to find the winning goal...and it came in the 89th minute. A Frank McAvennie cross looped high into the air, and with McGhee and Smith both challenging for the ball, it broke to Andy Walker, who hammered the ball into the roof of the net. Incredibly, it was 2-1 to Celtic!

The final whistle sparked scenes of wild celebrations, as Celtic had pulled off one of our most unlikeliest victories, as we had seemed dead and buried with only three minutes to go, but that was just another day in the office for the centenary Bhoys.

Celtic 2 (McGhee 87' Walker 89') Heart of Midlothian 1 (Whittaker 60')