From the moment Henrik Larsson's sclaffed shot against Boavista in the second leg of a tense Uefa Cup semi-final arched into the back of the net, an invasion was planned.

"I don't believe 50,000 fans will travel to Seville. That is madness, an exaggeration. I think a fair number will be around 4,000. We are talking about a final being played on a Wednesday, a day when people work."

So said Rafael Carmonna, security chief for the 2003 Uefa Cup final between Celtic and FC Porto, the Portuguese side managed by an up-and-coming manager called Jose Mourinho. Rafael may still suffer flashbacks.

Nearly 80,000 Celtic supporters descended into the small city, Hoops and sombreros visible on every inch of tarmac not just around the ground, but in every nook and cranny of the town.

Yet, in the aftermath of the game, Spanish police would make not even one arrest. Fifa would later award the Celtic support with a Fair Play award for the manner in which they turned out to support their team.

For an entire generation, Seville was a landmark as significant as Lisbon. That it did not deliver the same return will always be a disappointment, but it is impossible to ever regard that sweaty evening in Spain as anything other than cause for celebration. Away from the chaos of the city, Celtic would hole up in the calm outskirts of Jerez, with Billy Connolly and the Lisbon Lions sharing their hotel space.

But if there is indeed such a thing as glorious failure, Celtic embraced it in the Estadio Olimpico.

The Uefa Cup final of 2003 was a tense, dramatic and emotional affair. The heat was draining - in late May in the Moorish city of Seville the mercury hit the mid-30s.

The locals were bemused at their green-and-white city and describe the temperatures as inexplicable for that time of year.

Martin O'Neill's side lost the Uefa Cup final in the second half of extra time after being reduced to ten men with the 102nd-minute ordering-off of Bobo Balde for a second caution.

It was the first time a Uefa Cup final was decided on the "silver goal" rule - Derlei converting after Rab Douglas had spilled a shot and Ulrik Laursen's despairing boot could not keep the ball out of the net - but Celtic's spirit, tenacity and strength of character had been seen throughout the game.

Twice Celtic had pegged Porto back to get on level terms and if ever Larsson -whose ability was viewed with some scepticism by those outwith Scotland due to where he chose to play his football - showcased his ability, it was there in the Uefa Cup final with two beautiful headers, the first of which marked his 200th goal for Celtic.

He was named the Man of the Match - Deco must have run him close for it - but it was an accolade that did not register with him in the aftermath of the game.

"I don't see anything positive about my performance in the final. Scoring two goals in a final doesn't mean anything if you lose. All I wanted was for Celtic to win the cup," he would say after the game.

Years later, even after he had a Champions League medal in his pocket for his cameo display for Barcelona, the memory would still smart. "I would have swapped a lot of what I achieved just to win in Seville," said Larsson.

They were goals worthy of winning any final, but when Balde was dismissed for his second bookable offence, Celtic's chance was gone.

That Porto were the best team on the night is not up for debate, but their display was overshadowed in part by their play-acting and diving, lolling around the turf at the slightest sign of any physical contact.

Celtic fans' booing of the presentation was a sour note to end an unforgettable run, but their hurt stemmed largely from the perception that Porto had taken the mickey with their lengthy goal celebrations.

A huge part of that hurt was that Porto had three of those celebrations to Celtic's two.

Mourinho, though, for all his perceived arrogance, was gracious enough to admit he had been part of something special.

He said: "As a football game, Celtic-Porto in Seville was the most exciting football game I have ever been

involved in. An unbelievable game. Every time I see Martin O'Neill I remember I was the lucky one that day.

"An incredible match. I've never seen such emotional people. It was unbelievable."

Celtic have just cause to rue their opposition that night. Porto were a team worthy of taking the most mighty of

European scalps and in any other year, Celtic may well have come home with the trophy.

But while the supporters were heartbroken, they had made the pilgrimage to the final on the back of a decade that had delivered embarrassment after humiliation in both the domestic and European arena.

Their sense of perspective could allow them to sift for the joy in the whole experience. It was a different story for the Celtic players.

Journalists waiting for interviews were met by players unable to vocalise their genuine devastation.

The stylish, black Hugo Boss suits, designed purely for the trip, hung on their drained frames like mourning garb. They could not find the strength to celebrate the magnitude of the occasion. They could only mourn the chance that had come and gone.

Seville ended in tears. But ultimately there was pride amidst the heartbreak, pleasure to take from the pain.