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Celtic 2 Hearts 0

After the electric display in Holland, Celtic needed sheer raw energy and a few flashes of Henrik Larsson's brilliance to keep their 100 1022ntact with victory over Hearts at Parkhead on Saturday.

Just three days after mauling Ajax 3-1 at the Amsterdam Arena, the all-conquering treble winners returned for another tricky afternoon in front of their home fans.

But manager Martin O'Neill tried to keep his side on their toes by handing John Hartson his home debut, but Larsson again was the man who rose head and shoulders above everybody else.

Celtic knew before kick-off that they had to be more patient to break down the men from Edinburgh, as they chose to defend deeper and prevented the free-flowing football of Wednesday.

In-form winger Bobby Petta celebrated the opener in his homeland with a call-up to the Dutch squad yesterday and he again looked to be relishing the chance to shine again.

His cross almost brought an early goal as Johan Mjallby flicked the ball to Neil Lennon, just inside the box, but his effort was comfortably saved by Antti Niemi.

But Celtic went agonisingly close to opening the scoring in the 10th minute with the lively Hartson involved.

The Welshman found space down the right and played a first time ball into the path of Larsson, who fired his volley just wide.

A minute later and Hearts' plan to frustrate were dealt an early blow when Robert Tomaschek was hurt after a challenge from Didier Agathe and had to be replaced by Austin McCann.

But Lubo Moravcik was also looking to impress on his first start of the season for Celtic and he almost created the opener in the 13th minute.

His found Lennon in the box and the Irishman squared to Hartson, but the fiery red-head slipped as he shaped up to shoot and fired over the bar.

Chris Sutton, who surprisingly started in defence in the absence of Joos Valgaeren, Bobo Balde and Tom Boyd, did well at the back.

But he found himself in a more customary forward position in the 17th minute which almost paid dividend.

The £6million man rose to meet Moravcik's dangerous free-kick, but glanced his header just wide of the upright.

Celtic did have the ball in the back of the net moments later, but the goal was ruled out for offside after Petta's precision chip had put Larsson through.

The visitors were largely restricted to long-range efforts, but they did threaten promisingly briefly in the 26th minute.

First Colin Cameron and Gary Wales had combined to find Austin McCann in space, but he wasted his cross and goalkeeper Robert Douglas easily claimed.

As the half wore on the Celtic supporters began to get impatient and the impressive Moravcik tried to produce something special, but fired wide of the net from the edge of the box.

But Hearts gave Celtic a double scare in the 33rd minute when first Douglas had to get down to his right to save a superb long-range strike from Stephen Simmons.

Moments later and the youngster went even closer to scoring a shock opener when he headed Steven Boyack's inswinging corner just over the post with Douglas rooted to the spot.

That seemed to spark Celtic into life and Hartson spurned another glorious chance a minute later to mark his full debut with a goal.

Moravcik swung in a deep cross to the back post and with the whole goal at his mercy he somehow managed to head wide.

But Celtic were turned down a stonewall penalty in the 41st minute after former Celtic star Stephane Mahe had handled in his first match back at Parkhead since his £1million move.

The Frenchman blocked Moravcik's shot and then fell on it, but unsighted referee Willie Young waved away protests.

Justice was done, however, just before the break when Larsson rifled home a free-kick from the edge of the area after he had been dragged to the ground by Pressley.

Hearts manager Craig Levein replaced Stevie Fulton in the 56th minute with Severin as he looked to grab an undeserved equaliser, but the home side looked the more likely to score again.

The visitors were looking weary and Niemi had to block a fierce left-foot free-kick from Moravcik to keep his side in the game.

However, they should have been dead and buried moments later when Hartson spurned another guilt-edged opportunity when he glanced Petta's cross just wide of the mark.

But Larsson showed his strike partner how to finish in the 65th minute to wrap up three more points.

Olivier Tebily found Hartson, who laid it off to the Swede to hit an unstoppable drive past Niemi and into the corner of the net.

Hearts were badly running out of ideas and Juanjo came on for Boyack to provide some spark.

But O'Neill felt the game was in the bag and he gave the Celtic faithful the chance to see Steve Guppy for the first time at Parkhead.

The recent signing replaced the impressive Petta, while Larsson was also taken off for Shaun Maloney.

But the Celtic fans might not have seen the fireworks of Amsterdam - but it was a job well done all the same.


Celtic: Douglas, Tebily, Sutton, Mjallby, Agathe, Lennon, Lambert, Petta (Maloney 71), Moravcik, Larsson (Guppy 71), Hartson.

Subs Not Used: Kharine, McNamara, Crainey.

Goals: Larsson 45, 64.

Hearts: Niemi, Flogel, Mckenna, Pressley, Mahe, Boyack (Perez 67), Simmons, Cameron, Fulton (Severin 57), Tomaschek (McCann 11), Wales.

Subs Not Used: McKenzie, McSwegan.

Att: 58,423

Ref: W Young (Scotland).

Taken from

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