This article first appeared in the 2019 Scottish Cup final programme – 8th December 2019
This afternoon sees Steven Gerrard and Neil Lennon pit their tactical wits against each other at the home of Scottish football in a first Old Firm cup final since 2011 – a far cry from their first encounter two decades ago.
It was back in September 1999 that the pair’s paths first crossed. Filbert Street – Leicester City’s ramshackle home of the time – hosted the Foxes’ Premier League fixture with Liverpool, with the-then 28-year-old Lennon aiming to get the better of a fresh-faced teenager lining up for the Reds in the centre of the park.
That day would see Gerrard hold his own against his more experienced rival as the sides played out a 2-2 draw, but a little over a year later in October 2000, the Merseysider left Anfield satisfied as the Reds ran out 1-0 victors when Emile Heskey came back to haunt his former side.
Two months later, Lennon crossed Hadrian’s Wall to link-up with ex-Foxes boss Martin O’Neill at Celtic and play his part in a golden period for the Parkhead outfit. That switch seemingly brought his encounters to Gerrard to a premature end, however, that all changed in the 2002/03 campaign as the Bhoys and Liverpool were drawn together for a titanic UEFA Cup quarter-final.
The first leg of this Battle of Britain was played at Parkhead in March 2003 and Henrik Larsson nudged home a close-range opener in the second minute, but Heskey quickly replied to send the teams into the Anfield leg level-pegging.
On what would turn out to be a famous night for the green and whites, Gerrard would see a stinging 30-yard volley tipped onto the crossbar by Rab Douglas before Lennon’s team prevailed, thanks to an Alan Thompson free-kick and an excellent long-range John Hartson effort as they marched towards the final in Sevilla.
Despite both enjoying stellar international careers, that night would prove to be the final act of the pair’s playing day battles, however their subsequent paths have now led them to Hampden as they aim to send one half of Glasgow home happy at the expense of their biggest rivals.