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Thursday, 13 February, 2003, 22:48 GMT
Celtic narrow gap
Celtic striker Henrik Larsson rises above Marvin Andrews
Celtic struggled when Larsson was taken off injured
Celtic 2-1 Livingston

Chris Sutton's late strike kept Celtic's title aspirations alive after a lacklustre display against Livingston at Parkhead.

Following a dour first half the visitors grabbed a shock lead seven minutes after the break through Rolando Zarate.

But Momo Sylla pulled Celtic back into the game, scoring an equaliser on 77 minutes after Shaun Maloney's free-kick came back off the post.

And Sutton sealed victory with five minutes to go when he reacted quickest to another Maloney free-kick that Alan Main could only parry.

The last-gasp win has reduced the gap at the top of the table to jusr three points.

Henrik Larsson was forced to leave the field early after sustaining a double fracture to his jaw in a clash with Gustave Bahoken and was taken to hospital by ambulance.

Livingston started brightly and almost took a shock early lead.

Stilian Petrov brought down Zarate to the left of the area in the third minute and the Spanish player stepped up himself to curl a right-foot shot towards the top corner.

But Celtic keeper Magnus Hedman moved quickly to his left to turn the effort around the post.

That seemed to wake the home side up and Larsson twice went close to breaking the deadlock inside a minute.

Petrov played him through on goal but the striker hesitated and Marvin Andrews made a crucial tackle.

Momo Sylla scores Celtic's equaliser
Sylla got Celtic back into the game
Then Main saved Larsson's next chance from Sutton's defence-splitting pass.

Celtic almost paid the price in the 12th minute after referee Mike McCurry had harshly penalised Bobo Balde for a foul on Eugene Dadi.

From the resulting free-kick Phillipe Brinquin whipped in a dangerous cross for Andrews to head goalward, but Hedman was alert again to tip the ball over the crossbar.

The home side responded, however, by carving out another great opportunity for Larsson two minutes later.

Sutton picked out the Swede in the centre of goal six yards out, but his header was brilliantly blocked by Main.

Larsson took a blow to the face during the incident and he was forced to leave the field with blood pouring from his nose and he was replaced by Maloney.

Petrov headed over from a good position moments later.

Livi seemed to grow in confidence after the break and Rolando Zarate gave the visitors a surprise lead after 52 minutes.

Joos Valgaeren's back-pass was too short and Zarate nipped in, took the ball round the advancing Hedman and fired into the back of the empty net.

Without the talismanic Larsson, Celtic lacked a creative edge up front and failed to seriously trouble Main in the Livi goal.

With only 13 minutes remaining Sylla was first to the rebound when Maloney's curling free-kick from the edge of the box struck Main's right-hand post.

And Sutton grabbed a barely deserved three points for the home side with a similar strike after 85 minutes.


Celtic: Hedman, Valgaeren, Balde, Laursen (Guppy 57), Sylla (Lambert 85), Lennon, Petrov, McNamara, Smith, Sutton, Larsson (Maloney 17).
Subs Not Used: Broto, Crainey.

Booked: Laursen, Sutton.

Livingston: Main, Brinquin, Andrews, Rubio, Maidana (Bingham 78), O'Brien, Quino, Bahoken, Lovell (Amor 64), Zarate (Wilson 62), Dadi.
Subs Not Used: McEwan, McMenamin.

Booked: Lovell, Brinquin, Bahoken.

Attendance: 57,169

Referee: Michael McCurry (Scotland).

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