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The Dubai Cup was deemed an "unofficial British championship" played between the champions of England and Scotland in the United Arab Emirates.
During the mid 1980s the former fishing port of Dubai was still far from the luxurious millionaires resort and metropolis of spectacular sky scrappers and excessive consumerism that it now is. Indeed there were a few eyebrows raised at the prospect of two British clubs playing for a trophy in such unfamiliar surroundings.
However the ambitious UAE regime recognised that football was an excellent instrument to promote their relatively new nation to the western world. Whether they had the likes of Tony Shepherd and Pierce O’Leary in mind when devising their global marketing plan is another matter! But with English clubs in the early years of their post-Heysel European ban the Dubai Cup was something teams from south of the border were only too happy to embrace. .
So it was that on December 9th at the Al Wasl stadium Celtic took on English champions Liverpool in front of a 15,000 crowd for what was originally titled the Dubai Super Cup.
The first-half was a rather hum-drum affair, devoid of real talking points and even the Anglo-Scottish factor rivalry couldn’t raise excitement levels too high. Owen Archdeacon opened the scoring for the Bhoys early in the second half and a touch of drama was added to proceeding when Liverpool and Scotland defender Alan Hansen grabbed a late equaliser. The match went to penalties and it was the Anfield club that took the trophy winning 4-2 after the spot kicks thanks to misses from Owen Archdeacon (saved) and Mo Johnstone (hit the post).
Rangers took the cup on penalties the next year when they defeated Everton in a battle of the blues. But in April 1989 Liverpool and the Hoops returned once more to battle it out for what now was known as simply the Dubai Champions Cup. Not as super as they may have led you to believe.
Again the match went to penalties, this time after John Aldridge had equalised Mark McGhee’s opening strike for Celtic. Unlike 1986 though it was the Celtic players who kept their cool in the desert and they took the trophy 4-2 on penalties despite Mick McCarthy missing the opening kick. Peter Grant, Tommy Coyne, Andy Walker and Billy Stark were all successful from the spot for the Bhoys while Pat Bonner made a wonderful save from Steve McMahon before Steve Staunton hit the post.
That was to prove to be the last time the Dubai Cup was staged and as a consequence the simple but impressive trophy remains in the possession of the Bhoys.
9th Dec 1986
Celtic 1-1 Liverpool (Al Wasl Stadium)
Liverpool win 5-34-2 on penalties
Celtic: -Bonner, McGrain (W McStay), Whyte, Aitken, McGugan, Grant, Shepherd, P McStay, McGhee, McInally (Johnston), Archdeacon
Scorers: Archdeacon,Archdeacon (48)
Penalties: P McStay (scored), Grant (scored), Archdeacon (saved), Johnston (hit post)
Liverpool: Full team to come
Grobelaar, Hansen,?,?,?,?,? (Dalglish),?,?,?,?
Scorer: Hansen (88)
4th Apr 1989 Celtic 1-1 Liverpool (Al Wasl Stadium)
Celtic win 4-2 on penalties
Scorers - McGhee, Aldridge
Referee: Mr Neil Midgley (England). Attendance 12,000.