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Wednesday, 2 January, 2002, 17:00 GMT
Celtic break Well's resolve
Eric Deloumeaux cannot prevent Henrik Larsson's goal
Eric Deloumeaux cannot prevent Henrik Larsson's goal
Celtic 2-0 Motherwell

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Henrik Larsson and John Hartson finally broke Motherwell's resolve with winning goals in the final 10 minutes.

It had looked like Well goalkeeper Stevie Woods would prove to be the hero after denying Celtic with a number of breathtaking saves.

Celtic had also squandered several gilt-edged chances, with Larsson the main offender, before the Swede finally broke the deadlock and Hartson added the second in the closing seconds.

Victory means that the defending champions open up a 13-point gap over second-top Rangers, whose game at Kilmarnock had become a victim of freezing temperatures.

Home manager Martin O'Neill had made one change from the side that crushed Dundee United 4-0 on Saturday.

Paul Lambert and Yann Soloy battle it out
Paul Lambert and Yann Soloy battle it out
Joos Valgaeren returned from suspension and replaced the injured Stephen Crainey.

Andy Dow was restored to the Motherwell line-up in an unfamiliar central midfield position as stand-in for suspended captain Scott Leitch.

Martyn Corrigan and James McFadden also came in for Derek Adams and Stuart Elliott.

The home crowd seemed subdued, perhaps by the news that O'Neill would not "dread" an approach from Manchester United to take over from Sir Alex Ferguson.

In-form striker Hartson almost brought them to life with a fluke after just three minutes.

The Welshman's curled cross deceived Woods, who decided the ball was going out only to see it bounce off the crossbar.

Larsson headed straight at Woods from close range, then sent another effort on to the roof of the net before screwing an effort wide of the post.

Hartson struck the post after stretching to meet an Alan Thompson free kick.

When Thompson was more direct from a set-piece early in the second half, Woods had to divert the powerful effort over the bar.

Keith Lasley chases Celtic's Stilian Petrov
Keith Lasley chases Celtic's Stilian Petrov
The goalkeeper saved low to his left to deny Larsson and bettered that to prevent a Valgaeren shot nestling in the bottom corner.

Celtic almost paid the price after 63 minutes when Steven Hammell's chip just had too much power to dip underneath the crossbar.

O'Neill went for the jugular by putting on the more attacking Lubo Moravcik and Bobby Petta - and it paid off.

Hartson knocked Paul Lambert's long-ball into the path of Larsson, who stretched for the ball with Eric Deloumeaux and the ball ended up in the back of the net.

Larsson will claim the strike, although there were suggestions that it was an own goal.

Hartson ended Motherwell's hopes of a late equaliser when he fired home Larsson's centre from close range for his thirteenth goal in as many starts.

Celtic: Douglas, Mjallby, Balde (Petta 78), Valgaeren, McNamara, Lennon, Lambert, Petrov (Moravcik 66), Thompson, Larsson, Hartson. Subs Not Used: Gould, Maloney, Smith.

Booked: Thompson.

Motherwell: Woods, Ready, Strong, Deloumeaux, Corrigan, Dow, Soloy, Lasley (Elliott 87), Hammell, McFadden, Kelly. Subs Not Used: Brown, Martinez, Adams, Pearson.

Booked: Ready, Kelly, Corrigan, McFadden.

Att: 57,648

Ref: A Freeland

Celtic manager Martin O'Neill
"It did take a long time in the end but we deserved it"
Motherwell manager Eric Black
"Up until nine or ten minutes to go we were excellent"
See also:

02 Jan 02 |  Celtic
O'Neill dismisses Man Utd link
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