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<-Page <-Team Wed 23 Jan 2002 Celtic 2 Hearts 0 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Sporting Life ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Craig Levein <-auth Chris Roberts auth-> Robert Orr
[H Larsson 80] ;[H Larsson 86]
1 of 015 ----- L SPL A

Celtic 2 Hearts 0

By Chris Roberts, PA Sport

Henrik Larsson broke the hearts of Parkhead visitors Hearts - and Old Firm rivals Rangers - with two late goals to maintain the out-of-sort champions' 13-point lead at the top of the SPL.

Despite his wonder strike at the weekend, the Swede and his team-mates looked to be desperately short of form as the Edinburgh outfit threatened to cause an upset.

Suddenly - with Celtic struggling to find their form and Rangers coming back from two goals down to win at Dunfermline - there was hope among their arch-rivals that their nerves would twitch.

Larsson, however, had other ideas and even though he missed a number of good opportunities throughout he kept focused and got on the scoresheet twice.

Hearts were criticised the last time they came to Parkhead for being negative, but they were positive and they had in-form striker Ricardo Fuller to thank for installing that confidence.

The Jamaican looked lively and asked the Celtic defence some questions with his pace and persistence.

The home side took some time to get going, but even when they stepped it up a gear they still spluttered along.

Jackie McNamara exchanged passes with John Hartson inside the box, but Hearts defender Steven Pressley made a vital sliding tackle to prevent him getting a shot away.

Two minutes later they went agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock after an uncharacteristic mistake by Pressley.

The Scotland international was dispossessed by Alan Thompson, who went through one on one with Niemi - but the former Rangers keeper made a good save and the ball rolled just past the post.

The home side continued to struggle with the pace of Fuller on the break and they were fortunate not to fall a goal behind for the second time in four days.

He shrugged off the attentions of Joos Valgaeren and sprinted away before drilling a powerful right-foot shot past Robert Douglas - and the home crowd feared the worst.

Johan Mjallby, however, somehow managed to scoop the effort over the bar - although he cannot have known too much about it.

Larsson soon got presented with two good chances to give his side the lead after earlier giving the crowd something to laugh about with a fresh air shot.

Hartson did the same in the 27th minute from Thompson's cross and the ball came to the Swede unmarked - but he blasted his right-foot shot straight at Niemi.

Larsson was picked out in a great position by McNamara's cross moments later, but he blazed his header just over the crossbar.

Hearts were finally being put under some sustained pressure as the home crowd spurred Celtic on and Steve Fulton needed to clear Balde's header off the line from McNamara's corner.

The visitors again breathed a sigh of relief in the 37th minute as Hartson's deflected header from Thompson's free-kick squirmed just past Niemi's left-hand post.

O'Neill must have had some strong words for his side at the break, but still they failed to get into the stride that has made them Scotland's most feared side.

Hartson was making a nuisance of himself and he got on the end of Thompson's free-kick, but aimed his header straight at Niemi.

Petta looked short of confidence after being forced to sit on the sidelines for a number of games and that told.

The winger seemed to get caught in two minds in the 51st minute as he cut inside after Thompson freed him down the left and he fired wide with Larsson unable to get on the end of it.

Larsson was also struggling to get it going, but his confidence was evidently still there as he chipped a right-foot effort over Niemi and just past the post from just inside the box.

Celtic refused to stop going forward, but Larsson glanced his header well wide from Lennon's cross in the 63rd minute.

Again the home side survived a scare in the 66th minute when McNamara got on the end of Thompson's cross, but headed wide of the mark.

Moments later Moravcik was brought on for the ineffective Petta as O'Neill looked for something special to turn the game.

Then Hartson squandered another chance in the 72nd minute when Thompson delivered an inch-perfect cross, but he headed just over the crossbar from six yards.

Celtic, however, refused to give up and had good reason to with their glorious late showings this season.

And they were rewarded with 10 minutes to go as they took the lead through Larsson - who coolly steered his header from Thompson's left-wing cross past Niemi and into the corner.

That seemed to lift him to another level and he confirmed his return to form with five minutes left with an emphatic right-foot volley past Niemi from Moravcik's cross.

That double took his season tally to 25 in all competitions - and how precious tonight's double was.


Celtic: Douglas, Mjallby, Balde, Valgaeren, McNamara, Lennon, Lambert, Thompson, Petta (Moravcik 66), Larsson, Hartson.

Subs Not Used: Gould, Boyd, Maloney, Smith.

Booked: Mjallby.

Goals: Larsson 80, 86.

Hearts: Niemi, Flogel, Pressley, Webster, Mahe, Simmons, Severin, Gronlund (Boyack 83), Fulton (Kirk 83), Fuller, Wales (Adam 78).

Subs Not Used: McKenzie, McCann.

Booked: Gronlund, Adam.

Att: 57,203

Ref: B Orr (Scotland).

Taken from

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