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2001-08-04: Kilmarnock 0-1 Celtic, SPL
|Match Pictures | Matches: 2001 - 2002 | 2001-2002 Pictures|
Marshall, Hessey, Dindeleux, Innes, Canero, Mahood, Sanjuan (McLaren 31), Mitchell, Hay, Cocard (Di Giacomo 71), Ngonge (Calderon 78). Subs Not Used: Meldrum, Fowler.
Booked: Hessey, Mitchell.
Douglas, Mjallby, Tebily (Crainey 86), Valgaeren, Agathe, Lennon, Lambert, Thompson (McNamara 67), Petta (Hartson 19), Sutton, Larsson.
Subs Not Used: Kharine, Maloney.
Booked: Sutton, Valgaeren, Agathe.
Goals: Larsson 76.
Ref: S Dougal (Scotland).
- Match Report (see below)
ArticlesBy Jon West, PA Sport
Celtic won and Henrik Larsson scored but this was no routine victory for the current superpower in Scottish football. For not only did Kilmarnock match them in every department apart from the crucial taking of a single chance, it also demonstrated the unpredictable nature of Martin O'Neill, the manager who can still do no wrong in Scotland. There can be few stranger sights in the professional game than Chris Sutton playing in midfield but it was he who was the Swede's 76th-minute supplier. He spent the second half in the middle of the park to allow Larsson and new signing John Hartson an opportunity to strike up a partnership that could ultimately see him end up on the bench. But it was his name the away fans behind each goal were chanting as the final minutes ticked away and the home side's challenge subsided. O'Neill has a reputation as the reviver of careers and has already performed one rehabilitation job on the former England man by rescuing him from a dismal, morale-sapping spell at Chelsea. Sutton the play-maker? Stranger things have happened. Hartson's arrival in Glasgow had dominated all the headlines before the match but O'Neill was almost perverse in keeping him out of the starting line-up. The Ulsterman no doubt would argue that his all-conquering side needed no immediate changes and his critics are few and far between in the green half of Glasgow. But Hartson was not to be denied his big entrance and the twang of Bobby Petta's hamstring on 19 minutes was his cue. The big Welshman won his first challenge, a header, and then blazed a wild volley wide before upping the controversy stakes with a wild corner flag challenge on Chris Innes. The Kilmarnock centre-back was almost scythed in two but the Welshman escaped with just a lecture. Referee Stuart Dougal was to be lenient after that as he had already been busy with the yellow cards in the opening minutes. Larsson began the unpleasantness with a sublime turn to fool Freddie Dindeleux and within an instant Sean Hessey had hacked him down. Sutton made sure that Hessey, who had been drafted in for a rare start in the continued absence of the injured Kevin McGowne, knew of the Celtic disapproval and both players were booked. Ally Mitchell soon followed them for blocking Alan Thompson's free-kick no more than a couple of yards out, having rushed from the wall. The fuse had already been lit for the combustable Welshman to add to as Paul Lambert and Johan Mjallby had been guilty of heavy challenges of their own before Mitchell received a reprieve for bringing Larsson down from behind. There was plenty of football too and Michel Ngonge, the huge former Watford and QPR striker, was causing Celtic all sorts of problems. He used his strength to make Mjallby look a weakling in the box but spoiled the effect with wayward shooting. The better chances of the half fell to Celtic but they were only half chances and goalmouth scrambles in which anything could have happened. A trio of corners were forced and, out of the melee, Joos Valgaeren teed Hartson up right in front of goal yet the Welshman somehow blazed over. Dindeleux went on to deny him another shooting opportunity after Hessey had misjudged a Larsson flick header. The Frenchman's tackle was perfect in its execution, taking the ball off Hartson's toe before he could shoot. Sutton had seen the same thing happen to him earlier on. The first chance of the second half was a good one and fell to Kilmarnock. Christophe Cocard was the architect, taking a throw-in quickly and sending Mitchell away down the left. But Douglas came out, narrowed the angle and made a block that was to prove vital. At the other end, Olivier Tebily, the centre-half who is expected to make way for Bobo Balde in due course, scorned an equally good chance, heading wide from a Thompson corner after he had outjumped the home defence. Yet it was the home side that was dominating without managing to convert that zeal into a chance. Ngonge almost managed it, using his pace to set up a lightning counter following a corner but when he attempted to put Cocard clear he lost his footing at the vital moment and the chance was gone. Celtic had not dominated Scottish football for a whole season without being able to soak up pressure and when Lambert played a defence splitting pass to Hartson's feet an opener could have been expected to follow. But Gordon Marshall, the former Celtic goalkeeper, blocked superbly and was equal to Didier Agathe's follow-up effort not long after. A draw was looking a distinct possibility now but in an instant Larsson shattered the home side's hopes. Sutton had been dropping back to inhabit the midfield and it was his supply ball that put the Swede clear. He had little difficulty in drilling past the exposed Marshall. Killie offered little after that but went in at the final whistle knowing they had made a statement about the competitiveness of the SPL at the very least. A draw would have been no mean achievement and not unjust. But few sides have an answer to the Sutton-Larsson equation and with Hartson an added wild card it remains to see who will do better than the Ayrshiremen.
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