IN 1978, Welsh referee Clive Thomas earned notoriety by famously disallowing a Zico “goal” for Brazil which would have won a World Cup group match against Sweden.
Thomas indicated that he had whistled for time just before Zico headed a corner kick into the net. At the time, many Morton fans must have cast their minds back to 23 January 1965, when the Greenock side were denied a famous victory over Celtic in similar circumstances.
The nation was gripped by the news that Sir Winston Churchill was close to death as 18,500 fans crammed into Cappielow on a typical grey Imverclyde day to watch a Morton side containing four Danish internationalists and a Celtic team with seven future Lisbon Lions.
Morton, in the middle of their mid-Sixties heyday, illuminated the Cappielow glaur with their sky-blue shirts and shorts, topped off with tangerine socks.
Supremo Hal Stewart had revitalised the ailing club and after years in the doldrums, they sat in seventh position in the league, one place above a Celtic side without a victory so far in 1965.
Jock Stein’s appointment was still six weeks away and, in the match, Celtic displayed all the maddening inconsistency that had characterised previous seasons and prompted the club to turn to Stein.
Cruising at 3-0 up with just 12 minutes to go, Celtic somehow allowed Morton back into the match, and ended fortunate to escape with a point.
Celtic forced the pace from the kick-off, and Morton’s ‘“Man in Black” goalkeeper Erik Sorensen distinguished himself with some fine saves.
New signing Bertie Auld was outstanding, creating goals for Bobby Lennox and John Hughes and Celtic led 2-0 at half-time.
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Following the break Celtic remained well on top and, after Hughes and Auld both hit the woodwork, Tommy Gemmell made it three on 65 minutes, again from an Auld assist, with a trademark pile-driver that never rose more than 12 inches from the ground.
Celtic seemed to be coasting to an easy victory but Morton embarked on an unlikely comeback and, for once, it wasn’t Morton’s usual suspect Allan McGraw who was the hero.
Carl Bertelsen had represented Denmark in the 1964 European Championships before joining countrymen Erik and Jorn Sorensen, and Kai Johansen at Morton.
Bertelsen spent just one (successful) season at Cappielow before Hal Stewart inevitably cashed in on him, and he is remembered by Morton fans for this match more than any other.
Bertelsen’s first goal, a snap-shot that deceived John Fallon after 78 minutes, appeared to be nothing more than a consolation, but a Hugh Strachan header in 82 minutes reduced the deficit further, and suddenly Morton, roared on by their fans, had a chance.
Two minutes after Strachan’s goal, referee Stewart somehow missed John Clark handling the ball with both hands as he lay prone in the penalty area but, from the resultant corner, with Cappielow in uproar, Bertelsen scored a sensational equaliser with a spectacular, acrobatic overhead kick.
With the seconds ticking away, amid an electric atmosphere and an incessant din from the Morton fans, ex-Celt Eric Smith launched a free kick into a packed Celtic penalty area, and Bertelsen looked to have completed his hat-trick and secured a famous win for the Ton when he lashed the ball into the net.
The Morton players and fans’ jubilation was short-lived, however, when it was noticed that the referee was pointing to his watch and waving his arms in the air.
Quickly the bedlam surrounding Morton’s marvellous comeback was replaced by a stunned silence as, amid much confusion, it became apparent that the referee had disallowed the “goal”, resulting in a final score of Morton 3, Celtic 3.
Reports eventually surfaced that the referee had blown for time before Bertelsen had made contact with the ball. So great was the noise from the Morton fans in the build up to the “goal” that very few fans and players heard the whistle, and very few people inside the ground could say with any certainty at which point in the action the referee ended the match.
The furore over the disallowed goal briefly threatened to relegate news of Churchill’s death the following day to the inside pages of the local newspapers.
Long before the word paranoia had become an integral part of Scottish football’s lexicon, many Morton fans, suspecting foul play, were keen to point out that the referee hailed from Paisley.
Mr Stewart for his part, if he had been allowed to speak out, would no doubt have asserted that he was merely applying the laws of the game strictly by the book.
It had been a fantastic up and down match, one that Celtic should certainly have had tied up long before Morton’s fantastic fight back, but 50 years on, talk to any Morton fans who witnessed one of Cappielow’s most thrilling matches, and they will tell you that Hal Stewart’s heroes were robbed of a famous victory on the Cappielow mud.
Morton: Erik Sorensen, Boyd and Johansen, Smith, Kiernan and Strachan, Bertelsen and Jorn Sorensen, Caven, McGraw and Stevenson.
Celtic: Fallon, Young and Gemmell, Brogan, McNeill and Clark, Johnstone and Murdoch, Hughes, Auld and Lennox.