Celtic beats Sporting in Fenway Football Challenge

Published Jul. 22, 2010 4:41 a.m. EDT

The ball cleared the visitor's bullpen and landed in the bleachers, just like so many other line drives in Fenway Park's long history.

But this was the wrong time - and the wrong sport - to go yard.

Sporting Lisbon striker Liedson kicked it over the crossbar and the baseball bullpen in the sixth round of a tiebreaker, and Paul McGowan followed with the game-winner on Wednesday night as Glasgow Celtic won 6-5 on penalty kicks after a 1-1 regulation tie in the Fenway Football Challenge.

An announced crowd of 32,162 came out on a balmy night to see soccer return to the oldest ballpark in the major leagues for the first time since Pele played at Fenway 42 years ago.


''It was different and we enjoyed it,'' Celtic coach Neil Lennon said. ''It's one of the most famous stadiums in the world, and we played a football game in it.''

Taking advantage of a road trip that sent the baseball team to the West Coast for 10 games, Red Sox management imported the two European clubs for the exhibition game and stretched a soccer field from the third-base line to right field, with sod covering the pitcher's mound and most of the infield.

With chants of ''Let's go, Celtic!'' bouncing around the old ballpark - a reminder of Boston's NBA glory - the Scottish club took the lead after Georgios Samaras was awarded a penalty kick after being tripped in the box by Daniel Carrico. Goalkeeper Vitor Golas guessed and dove right, but the kick went to his left and into the net.

''They were cheering all the way through,'' Celtic captain Scott Brown said. ''I think the loudest was when (Samaras) went down in the box.''

Sporting tied it in the 82nd minute when Diogo Salomao's header hit the crossbar and bounced right back out to Helder Postiga, who headed it back in for the equalizer. Sporting had a chance to take the lead in the 86th minute, but Liedson's header went just wide of an unprotected side of the net.

It stayed even through the end of regulation and the first five rounds of the penalty-kick tiebreaker when each of the first 10 attempts was marked as successful with a check mark on the Green Monster's manual scoreboard. Liedson, who played for Portugal in the World Cup, hung the first red ''X'' in the sixth inning slot when he put his attempt over the crossbar.

Golas guessed wrong on McGowan's shot, and the ballpark loudspeakers began belting out ''Dirty Water,'' the song that celebrates Red Sox victories.

The game continued a busy year for Fenway, which was the home of the NHL's Winter Classic and other hockey games in January and is due to host an Aerosmith concert next month. On the heels of the World Cup, and on a night when the ballpark would otherwise be empty, the lively atmosphere got a boost when the thunderstorms in the forecast failed to materialize.

''The event and atmosphere absolutely exceeded our expectations,'' said Red Sox chief operating officer Sam Kennedy, who said the ballclub had not decided if more soccer is in Fenway's future. ''Right now, we are enjoying the moment of this successful 'experiment.'''

Mixing themes from American baseball and European soccer, the fans sang along to both ''You'll Never Walk Alone,'' the unofficial Celtic anthem, and ''Sweet Caroline,'' a Fenway staple during Red Sox games. In a nod to the Portuguese fans filing into the ballpark, the outside sausage vendors claimed to be selling chorizo.

The trophy was a crystal soccer ball mounted on a base shaped like home plate.

''The atmosphere was fantastic,'' Lennon said. ''I think the players have enjoyed experience of playing in America. It's not like a normal stadium, actually, with the Green Monster and so many people sitting on top of that. I liked the history and the tradition of the stadium.''