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Linfield legend urges modern-day Blues to take chance for Celtic 'glory tie'

By Steven Beacom

Linfield legend Lee Doherty has urged the modern-day Blues players to take their chance and set up a glamour Champions League tie against Celtic almost 25 years on from the Windsor Park outfit missing out on a dream clash with AC Milan.

David Healy's treble winners will face Brendan Rodgers' Invincibles in Europe's premier competition if they overcome San Marino side La Fiorita in the first qualifying round.

The prospect of Linfield facing one of the biggest clubs in the world has brought memories back to former Northern Ireland midfielder Doherty, who along with his team-mates endured Champions League heartache in 1993.

Back then the Blues faced FC Copenhagen in the first round. Linfield had lost their preliminary round encounter to Dinamo Tblisi, but the Georgians were later expelled from the competition for attempting to bribe an official in the first leg, providing the Irish League side with a surprise return.

At Windsor, Linfield produced a sensational display beating the Danes 3-0. In the return, trailing 2-0, Trevor Anderson's side looked set to progress until Copenhagen netted a contentious injury-time free-kick to take the tie into extra-time.

Linfield felt too much stoppage time had been played and didn't recover as the home side completed a dramatic comeback, winning 4-0 on the night and 4-3 on aggregate.

To add to the frustrations and disappointment of the Linfield team, Copenhagen drew mighty AC Milan in the next round. So near, yet so far to taking on a world class outfit managed by Fabio Capello and with greats in their squad such as Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini, Marco van Basten, Brian Laudrup, Marcel Desailly and Jean-Pierre Papin. Milan went on to win the Champions League that season beating Barcelona 4-0 in the final.

"We were gutted to lose that game in Copenhagen, especially the way it happened. I was the one who gave the free-kick away in injury time," recalled Doherty.

"The draw was the next day back then and my dad rang me tell me who Copenhagen got. I remember saying 'please don't tell me Man United' because I was a big fan, and he said 'no, it's AC Milan', which would have been an amazing tie for us because they were the best team in Europe then with great players. That would have been a glory tie for Linfield.

"Italian football was the pinnacle at that time and you would have been going to play against lots of superstars at the San Siro but it wasn't to be.

"Irish League sides don't get a chance to meet clubs like that very often, so hopefully the current Linfield team will get through to face Celtic because that would be an incredible tie.

"As soon as the draw was made all the talk has been about Celtic playing Linfield but I think David Healy has been right to say that he and his players will only be focusing on the game with the San Marino side.

"The first leg at Windsor is key. I'm sure David will approach the game with the intention to go out and win it without conceding a goal. If they can do that they will be in a good position going to San Marino."

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