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Sunday, 21 May, 2000, 19:25 GMT 20:25 UK
Larsson returns as Celtic win
Dalglish was able to blood several youngsters against United
Celtic 2-0 Dundee United

Henrik Larsson returned to the Celtic fold as Kenny Dalglish offered a bright insight into the club's future against Dundee United.

The Swedish international had begged his boss to give him a run-out in the final game of the season to prove his fitness to his international bosses ahead of Euro 2000.

Larsson played just 25 minutes but showed no visible signs of after-effects following his recovery from a broken leg.

Larsson is desperate to play at Euro 2000
He shared centre stage with six young players in the 2-0 win.

Jim Goodwin, Brian McColligan and Ryan McCann made their debuts while John Kennedy, Mark Fotheringham and Simon Lynch got their first starts.

The Celtic youngsters opened with some neat controlled play, with Fotheringham and Goodwin, the pick of the bunch, displaying a good understanding down the right.

But it was the more experienced campaigners who almost opened up United early on.

Berkovic combined with Fotheringham before laying the ball into the path of Paul Lambert whose drive was blocked by Jason de Vos.

Burchill efforts

Berkovic created another opportunity when he flashed a corner to Johann Mjallby, but the defender's header was just wide of Alan Combe's goal.

Mark Burchill escaped the attentions of John McQuillan after 17 minutes but the ball caught under his feet on the way to goal and his eventual shot found only the side netting.

Lynch was starting to find his feet alongside Burchill and shaved the bar from the edge of the area.

Another opportunist ball from Berkovic almost allowed Burchill time to strike, but the forward misjudged the pace of the pass.

Fotheringham was the architect of Burchill's next effort moments later when he glided a ball to the left.

Burchill struck well but Combe was down well to save at his near post.

Berkovic: Missed penalty
After half an hour, Larsson emerged from the dug-out to warm up to a tumultuous reception.

With two minutes left in the half, Burchill raced clear of veteran Maurice Malpas before Combe pulled down the young striker.

Berkovic strode up to the spot but his shot was weak and Combe easily saved to his right.

The home support were forced to wait a little longer for Larsson as Kenny Dalglish kept faith with his starting line-up for the second period.

But it was United who went closest after the break when Stephen McConalogue crossed for Jim Hamilton whose header landed on the roof of Jonathan Gould's net.

Efforts rewarded

However seven minutes into the half, Celtic's stars of the future were rewarded for their excellent work.

A Berkovic free-kick was cleverly backheeled by Mjallby into the path of Lynch and the 18-year-old controlled brilliantly before stroking the ball past Combe's dive to the left.

But the goal appeared to have a negative effect on the home side and the cries for Larsson began in earnest.

United noticed the fans' anxiety and McConalogue went close when he connected with Alex Mathie's near-post cross.

However, the home supporters did not have to wait long for a second goal.

Berkovic fed McCann from the left and the debutant's shot appeared to be coasting just wide of Combe's post before Burchill bundled the ball in at the far post.

With a sense of timing, Larsson entered the fray just seconds after the goal to the unbridled joy of the Celtic fans.

Goal-line clearance

Within seconds, Larsson had reminded the home support just what they had missed during the past seven months when he stroked the ball narrowly wide of Combe's goal.

The Swedish international again proved his worth to the home side with just four minutes remaining.

Larsson picked Gould's long throw on the halfway line and moved forward before picking out Burchill's run.

Combe was swiftly off his line to deny the striker but the ball arrived at the feet of Larsson on the edge of the area.

The Swede could only swing at the ball but still forced Tony Smith to head off his own line.

To further prove his fitness ahead of Euro 2000, Larsson demonstrated more ball skills when he dodged McQuillan before forcing Combe into a fine save from 20 yards.

Maurice Malpas has been a great servant to the club

Paul Sturrock, Dundee United manager
Celtic were offered a standing ovation at the final whistle but the loudest cheers were for Larsson.

Interim Celtic manager Kenny Dalglish was delighted at the impact the young players had made on the game.

"There are a lot of happy memories there for six young kids making their first team start and a couple of others who came on late in the game," said Dalglish.

While Dalglish was lauding his stars of the future, Tannadice boss Paul Sturrock was saying goodbye to veteran Maurice Malpas, who confirmed his retirement after the game at Parkhead.

The former Scottish international turns 38 in August.

"I am very disappointed because he has been a great servant to the club," said Sturrock.

"But he feels that by going on for another couple of seasons, he will start dropping the standards he has attained.

"Hopefully he will come on the coaching staff. He will play for the under-21s if needed and, if there was a real problem, he would come back into the fray.

"But he has committed his mind now that this is the time. I think Scottish football in general will thank him."


Celtic: Gould, Goodwin, Mjallby, Kennedy, Lambert, McCorrigan, Fotheringham, McCann, Berkovic, Lynch, Burchill.
Subs: Kerr, Larsson, Shields, Miller, Convery.

Dundee Utd: Combe, McQuillan, De Vos, Malpas, Smith, Davidson, Telesnikov, Hannah, Hamilton, Mathie, McConalogue.
Subs: Gallacher, Easton, Thompson, S. McCulloch, Ferraz.

Referee: Kenny Clark (Scotland)

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