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Saturday, 22 September, 2001, 15:57 GMT 16:57 UK
Larsson spoils Dons' day
Henrik Larsson directs his header into goal
Henrik Larsson directs his header into goal
Celtic 2-0 Aberdeen

Celtic goalscoring machine Henrik Larsson and Stilian Petrov made sure Aberdeen's spoiling tactics failed to win the visitors the point for which they came looking.

Aberdeen manager Ebbe Skovdahl played five at the back as he attempted to avoid the kind of thumpings they have suffered at the hands of the Scottish champions in recent meetings.

A combination of luck, poor finishing and desperate defending kept Celtic out, but only until the 65th minute.

That was when the top goalscorer in Europe last season set Martin O'Neill's side on their way to putting the midweek defeat by Juventus behind them with three points.

Petrov made sure that Celtic would retain their commanding lead at the top of the SPL with a thundering effort nine minutes from time.

Stilian Petrov drives home the second
Stilian Petrov drives home the second
Celtic made five changes from the side that lost in Italy in midweek.

Joos Valgaeren, Didier Agathe and Neil Lennon all missed out, while Chris Sutton dropped to the bench as John Hartson was given a rare start.

Skovdahl adopted a cautious 5-4-1 formation and made five changes of his own.

Ben Thornley, Derek Young and Eugene Dadi dropped to the bench, while Roberto Bisconti was out along with Cato Guntveit.

Ryan Esson replaced injured goalkeeper David Preece.

Esson made a nervous start, fumbling a Momo Sylla cross, and Petrov, Oliver Tebily and Larsson all threatened before Johan Mjallby had an effort headed off the line by Darren Mackie.

Aberdeen were occasionally prepared to go forward on the counter-attack and Hicham Zerouali's long-range effort had the power but not the direction to threaten Robert Douglas.

But Celtic remained the dominant force and Hartson's header was blocked on the line by Darren Young.

Larsson created the opportunity that should have put Celtic ahead, his teasing cross finding Alan Thompson at the back post only for the English midfielder to head wide.

Thompson then sent in one of his trademark thumping free kicks that Esson pushed clear, Petrov slicing the rebound a few yards wide from the edge of the box.

John Hartson tussles with Derek Whyte
John Hartson tussles with Derek Whyte
Sylla was teasing Aberdeen down the right and sent in a lovely cross to the back post.

But Larsson's diving header was thwarted by the outside of the post.

Celtic again controlled possession after the break and a flighted cross from Thompson found Hartson stealing in at the back post.

The Welsh international took the ball cleanly on the half-volley 12 yards out, but his effort slipped feet wide of the far post.

Aberdeen defender Jamie McAllister was stretchered off after a neck brace was fitted following a clash of heads with Sylla.

Russell Anderson came on for his first game since he himself was injured in May 2000.

Within minutes, Celtic were in the lead after Anderson had pulled down Sylla wide on the right.

Thompson curled the free kick into the six-yard box and Larsson rose above Phil McGuire to head home.

Worse was to come for Aberdeen as Larsson laid a free kick into the path of Petrov to drive the ball into the top corner from 20 yards.

Celtic: Douglas, Balde, Mjallby, Tebily, Sylla, Lambert, Petrov, Thompson, Petta, Larsson, Hartson. Subs: Kharine, Sutton, Healy, Moravcik, Maloney.

Aberdeen: Esson, McGuire, Whyte, Solberg, McNaughton, Tiernan, Darren Young, McAllister, Mackie, Zerouali, Winters. Subs: Peat, Anderson, Derek Young, Thornley, Dadi.

Referee: M McCurry.

Aberdeen manager Ebbe Skovdahl
"The operation went well but the patient died"
Celtic manager Martin O'Neill
"it's hard to break sides down"
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