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Tuesday, 11 February, 2003, 23:55 GMT
Sutton double blunts Thistle
Chris Sutton is congratulated by Henrik Larsson
Sutton and Larsson resumed their partnership
Partick Thistle 0-2 Celtic

Chris Sutton marked his return to the Celtic attack with a clinical first-half double that ensured victory in Sunday's Glasgow derby at Firhill.

Victory restored Celtic's three-point deficit with league leaders Rangers, who had defeated Aberdeen on Saturday.

Sutton has spent much of the season in midfield as manager Martin O'Neill made room for Welsh international striker John Hartson.

But, with Hartson out injured, Sutton went some way to proving that he remains the best foil for Henrik Larsson up front with two goals that effectively ended Partick Thistle's challenge within 33 minutes.

Chris Sutton holds off Thistle's Kevin McGowne
Chris Sutton (right) scored twice for Celtic
Hartson had failed to recover from a knee injury as O'Neill made three changes from the side that defeated Dundee United in midweek.

Johan Mjallby has been ruled out for a month after his midweek injury, so Jackie McNamara and Ulrik Laursen came in.

Northern Ireland midfielder Neil Lennon made his first start for the champions since suffering a knee injury against Celtic Vigo on 12 December and replaced Scotland international Paul Lambert.

Partick manager John Lambie made just one change from the team that lost at home to Livingston in midweek, with new signing Ian Ross missing out through injury and being replaced by Kenny Milne.

Thistle were under siege early on and Celtic had claims for a penalty rejected by Kenny Clark when Sutton went down in the box under the challenge of Kevin McGowne.

But the visitors took the lead when Larsson's shot was blocked, McNamara drilled the ball through a crowded goalmouth and Sutton stretched to divert the ball into the roof of the net from six yards.

Celtic goalkeeper Magnus Hedman looked far from convincing when put under pressure, but the Sweden international was alert in the 20th minute to save David Rowson's 25-yard drive low to his right before Archibald fired just wide.

Stilian Petrov chases Thistle striker Alex Burns
Alex Burns (left) worked hard for Thistle
Thistle contributed to their own problems and David Lilley's poor clearance fell straight to Sutton, who coolly curled the ball into the bottom corner for the second goal after 33 minutes.

Larsson was inches away from making it three moments later when he fired a right-foot free-kick just past the post from 23 yards.

Sutton should have completed his hat-trick in the 55th minute, when Larsson dummied Lennon's pass but the English striker spooned the ball over from eight yards.

Milne almost gave the home side some hope two minutes later, when he spotted Hedman off his line only for his audacious lob to land on the roof of the net.


Partick: Arthur, Lilley, Archibald, McGowne, Craigan, Paterson, Rowson, Milne, Hardie, Britton, Burns. Subs: Budinauckas, Waddell, Buchan, Walker, Gibson.

Celtic: Hedman, Valgaeren, Balde, Laursen, Agathe, McNamara, Lennon, Petrov, Smith, Larsson, Sutton. Subs: Broto, Guppy, Maloney, Healy, Crainey.

Referee: K Clark.

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Celtic manager Martin O'Neill
"That was the best we've played for some time"
Partick boss John Lambie
"We have been defending too deep"
The SPL season gets under way

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