Dieter van Tornhout’s header six minutes from time was enough for Kilmarnock to win the club’s first ever Scottish League Cup against Celtic.
The Hoops were looking to secure the first trophy of a possible three as they searched for a domestic treble but it was heartache again for them as they narrowly lost another League Cup Final like they did last season at the expense of bitter rivals Rangers.
It was Celtic who started the brighter though in the glistening Hampden sunshine. Peppering the Killie goalmouth to no avail by forcing a sequence of corners. Kilmarnock looked distinctly uncomfortable and could not get any fluency into their much heralded passing game in the opening 20 minutes.
The Bhoys searched for a critical early goal, get it and you automatically sensed that the trophy would not be leaving the city of Glasgow. Celtic’s first golden chance came in the seventh minute when Killie defender Mahamadou Sissoko gifted the ball to Gary Hooper with a dangerous pass across the 18 yard line but the Englishman failed to cash in as Cammy Bell raced off his line to block.
After that early scare, Kilmarnock grew in confidence after the 20 minute mark and their passing game started to click into gear. Heffernan had a shot blocked by Kelvin Wilson but the ball broke for Dean Shiels 18 yards out but his low shot went a yard wide of the target.
Kilmarnock were stroking the ball with confidence and looked to punish a Celtic side who looked scornful at not taking an early initiative in the game and it was the Glasgow side that now had the stage fright. However on the half hour mark Celtic carved out another great chance. Stokes saw his header brilliantly saved by Bell who somehow shifted his bodyweight back across to his left hand side to claw the Celtic hitman’s powerful downward header away to safety.
A couple of minutes later Shiels had an effort that was beaten away by Forster as the game started to open up. Sissoko then had a header for Killie blocked on the line by Stokes. Scott Brown fired a venomous first time shot towards goal but the inspired Bell managed to get a fingertip to help it over the crossbar.
Just before half-time Kilmarnock created their best chance when Harkins played in Heffernan who outpaced the Celtic rearguard only to take a heavy touch at the crucial moment and allowed Forster to smother at the Killie striker’s feet.
Kilmarnock were out the traps in the 2nd half sharply and in the 48th minute Dean Shiels should have scored from six yards out but his shot was sliced horribly wide. Then Sissoko wasted another great chance as his header form six yards also flopped harmlessly wide, a bit of composure from both men and Killie would have taken a shock lead. Celtic looked to crank up the pressure with 30 minutes to go, Ledley lashed a shot wide and Stokes firing into the arms of Bell from 12 yards.
On the 68th minute Victor Wanyama rose the highest for Celtic to meet a forrest corner only to see his header tipped over by the superb Bell. Kilmarnock were a constant threat though, Kelly had a shot wide and Heffernan’s stinging drive was parried by Forster as the tension increased with extra time looming. But the deadlock was broken in the 84th minute.
Good work down the right hand side released Shiels who picked out substitute Dieter Van Tornhout at the far post who crashed his eight yard header past Forster into the net to send the Killie faithful into dreamland and Celtic into disbelief.
Celtic were stunned but not completely out of it as they desperately seeked a goal to send this cup final into extra time. Samaras had a powerful shot parried into the air by the heroic Kilmarnock goalkeeper who also denied Commons from the rebound.
And then in injury time controversy embroiled Hampden. Stokes went down in the area, the referee blew his whistle and booked the Irishman for diving. Killie defender Michael Nelson certainly made contact with the striker but Stokes seemed to delay as he threw himself to the deck.
Kilmarnock held on to win a pulsating cup final and to become the 9th club in Scottish history to win all three trophies on offer (the League Cup, the Scottish Cup and the League).
However there was one desperately sad twist in affairs when Liam Kelly’s father, Jack, had a heart attack amidst the celebrations. Mixed emotions overcame everyone involved at Kilmarnock. Later it emerged that Jack Kelly died later that day.
This was another tragedy following the heart attack Fabrice Muamba sustained at White Hart Lane. The occassion turned from superb to sombre as news of Liam Kelly’s dad filtered through the squad and the fans. But some declare that Jack would have died at the happiest moment when seeing his son help his club in winning the League Cup.
RIP Jack Kelly.