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John Robertson <-auth Robert Smith auth-> Hugh Dallas
4 of 010 Lee Miller 8 ;Mark Burchill 19 L SPL A

Burchill gives Rangers upper hand

By Robert Smith
(Filed: 03/04/2005)

Celtic (0) 0 Hearts (2) 2

Hearts have planted the Bank of Scotland Premier League championship race back into the grateful hands of Rangers. With one Old Firm game left to go at Ibrox after the split, Alex McLeish's men will have the unexpected opportunity go a point clear at the top with a win at Motherwell today.

And they had John Robertson's men and, in particular, former Celtic striker Mark Burchill to thank.

Lee Miller headed the Edinburgh outfit into an early lead before setting up Burchill to give them a two-goal advantage at the break.

The home side never recovered from that in a dress rehearsal for next week's Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden Park and Robertson, whose future is uncertain under new chief executive Phil Anderton, left Celtic Park with a big smile on his face.

Celtic started confidently but their fans were stunned into silence after just eight minutes when the visitors snatched the lead against the run of play.

David Marshall, back in for injured Robert Douglas, did brilliantly to keep out Andy Webster's point-blank header but Miller reacted quicker than the sleeping home defence to head home the rebound.

Hearts were let off the hook in the 17th minute when Alan Thompson's dangerous corner was allowed to fly across the face of goal. Bobo Balde looked surprised to see it arrive and he completely missed a golden chance to pull Celtic back on level terms.

The home side were emphatically punished three minutes later with Burchill coming back to haunt them. Miller played a perfectly-weighted ball through to Burchill. Stanislav Varga gave him far too much room and the former Portsmouth striker coolly steered his right-foot shot past Marshall and into the bottom corner.

John Hartson had the ball in the net moments later when he headed Thompson's free-kick across Craig Gordon and into the far corner but the linesman had his flag up for offside.

The home side continued to pile on the pressure as Gordon got down well to save Hartson's shot from eight yards and Varga headed Thompson's cross wide from close range.

Bellamy always looked capable of doing something special with his pace but his cross was too powerful in the 34th minute and Hartson could only head over the top.

Martin O'Neill made a change in the 36th minute by bringing on the attacking flair of Ross Wallace for Henchoz. Wallace should have made it 2-1 just before half-time after Bellamy had played him clean through but he dragged his shot wide of the post with Gordon well beaten.

Chairman Brian Quinn was jeered by a section of the home crowd at the break following O'Neill's insistence that he needs more money to make a mark in the Champions League.

Celtic became increasingly more desperate in the second half and Varga let fly with a shot from 30 yards which Gordon comfortably caught.

The Scotland goalkeeper pulled off a great save to deny Bellamy in the 62nd minute. The Welshman could have made it an anxious final five minutes for a jubilant Hearts but he blazed over from eight yards out, summing up Celtic's miserable day.

Taken from

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