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Last Updated: Saturday, 25 October, 2003, 15:48 GMT 16:48 UK
Celtic trounce Aberdeen
Henrik Larsson celebrates his second goal with Alan Thompson
Henrik Larsson celebrates his second goal with Alan Thompson
Celtic 4-0 Aberdeen

Celtic took advantage of Rangers' slip-up against Livingston to stretch their lead to five points at the top of the table with a comprehensive victory over Aberdeen.

From the moment Henrik Larsson put them ahead, Celtic were rarely troubled.

Larsson added a second and a third goal, with a Chris Sutton penalty sandwiched in between.

Aberdeen enjoyed some decent pressure in the first half, but failed to test Magnus Hedman, and never looked like taking anything from the game.

It took Celtic only four minutes to break the deadlock. A flowing move down the right involving Didier Agathe, Sutton and Stanislav Varga seemed to have foundered after Varga's cross was over-hit.

But Alan Thompson retrieved the ball on the left and his cross was met by Larsson, who got in front of his marker to steer the ball past David Preece.

Minutes later Larsson ought to have made it two after excellent work by Liam Miller, who cut the ball back to the Swede, but his effort from six yards crept wide of the far post.

Aberdeen were providing a threat of their own, however, and Darren Mackie was twice unlucky to find no takers for dangerous crosses - the first sliced over his own bar by Joos Valgaeren and the second a chip over Magnus Hedman, which was scrambled away by Neil Lennon.

The visitors came within inches of an equaliser after 20 minutes when Steve Tosh laid the ball into the path of Paul Sheerin 12 yards out, but his right-foot shot went marginally wide.

But all Aberdeen's good work counted for nothing when Larsson scored Celtic's second with a beautifully struck free kick from 20 yards, which curled round the Aberdeen wall, past the outstretched left-hand of Preece and into the bottom corner of the net.

Liam Miller and Henrik Larsson celebrate as Celtic rout Aberdeen
Liam Miller and Henrik Larsson celebrate as Celtic rout Aberdeen
Six minutes later, Larsson was denied his hat-trick when he curled a free kick from an almost identical position towards the other corner, only to see the ball come back off the inside of the post, and Aberdeen were able to clear.

Celtic did make it three before half time after John Hartson was fouled in the box by Russell Anderson and Sutton calmly slotted the penalty past Preece shortly before the half drew to a close.

Larsson was not to be denied his hat-trick and it was duly completed after only 10 minutes of the second period, Miller doing the set-up work on the right and his cross was slid under the body of Preece by Larsson.

Celtic were almost gifted a fifth goal when Preece rushed out of his goal to clear a Bobo Balde pass, only to hit the ball straight at Eric Deloumeaux, but Anderson thumped the ball to safety before Larsson could knock the ball into the empty net.

Larsson turned provider after 72 minutes when he picked out Shaun Maloney in the box, but Preece got down well to save one-handed.

Hartson missed an excellent opportunity to get his name on the scoresheet five minutes later, turning the ball over the bar from close range.

Aberdeen were denied a consolation goal when Maloney headed off the line from Anderson's scrambled effort.

Celtic: Hedman, Varga, Balde, Valgaeren, Agathe, Lennon, Miller, Sutton, Thompson, Larsson, Hartson.

Subs: Douglas, Gray, Sylla, Maloney, Kennedy.

Aberdeen: Preece, Deloumeaux, Anderson, McGuire, Tosh, Heikkinen, Sheerin, Clark, Muirhead, Booth, Mackie.

Subs: Hutton, Hinds, Rutkiewicz, Tiernan, Foster.

Referee: C Richmond

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