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Last Updated:  Saturday, 8 March, 2003, 14:19 GMT
Hartson buoys Celtic hopes
Hartson shows his delight
Celtic 1-0 Rangers

Celtic underlined their unwillingness to give up the SPL title with a thoroughly deserved win over Rangers at Celtic Park.

The home side were on top throughout and will probably feel they should have more than John Hartson's fierce 57th-minute strike to show for their superiority.

Rangers were disappointing and missed Ronald de Boer more than Celtic missed Henrik Larsson.

With so much at stake it was no surprise that the match began tentatively for both sides.

It was fully 14 minutes before either side created an opening and it was the home side who came close to taking the lead.

Stilian Petrov swung in a corner that was missed by Maurice Ross and fell to Hartson, but the Welshman could not direct his effort on target.

Rangers' first effort on goal did not arrive until the 27th minute when Shota Arveladze laid the ball into the path of Mikel Arteta on the edge of the box, but the young midfielder's left-foot shot flew just wide.

At the other end, Petrov had a shot deflected wide from 25 yards after some slack defensive play by Rangers.

Five minutes before the break, it was Rangers' turn to defend and Maurice Ross and Ricksen both blocked goalbound efforts.

We're still behind Rangers but three points was valuable
Celtic's Chris Sutton
Hartson missed a glaring opportunity after 50 minutes after losing his marker to get on the end of Alan Thompson's cross, but his header from six yards flashed wide.

Peter Lovenkrands used his pace to good effect for the first time five minutes later to break free of the Celtic defence, but he was forced wide and Rab Douglas dealt easily with his shot.

The deadlock was broken in 57 minutes after Joos Valgaeren broke up a Rangers move to spark a Celtic counter-attack.

The ball was played up to Sutton who beat both Jerome Bonnissel and Amoruso in the air to knock the ball into the path of the unmarked Hartson, who volleyed an unstoppable shot past Stefan Klos.

Moments later, Moore was perhaps fortunate not be shown a second yellow card when he caught Lambert with his shoulder after the ball had gone.

Neil Lennon came within inches of putting Celtic two ahead midway through the second half when the ball fell to him on the edge of the box, but his first-time effort flew the wrong side of the post.

Lambert came just as close to doubling the Celtic lead when he and Sutton combined with only Ferguson back, but the Englishman's cross just evaded his captain in the middle.

Douglas saved well from a powerful Arveladze shot as Rangers at last threatened the Celtic goal.

With only a minute remaining, the Celtic keeper earned his win bonus with a fantastic save from Amoruso's long-range free kick.


Celtic: Douglas, Mjallby, Balde, Valgaeren, Agathe (Sylla 35), Lambert, Lennon, Petrov (McNamara 84), Thompson, Sutton, Hartson.

Subs Not Used: Broto, Maloney, Crainey.

Booked: Sutton.

Rangers: Klos, Ross (Konterman 84), Moore, Amoruso, Bonnissel (Thompson 68), Ricksen, Arteta (Caniggia 74), Ferguson, Lovenkrands, Arveladze, McCann.

Subs Not Used: McGregor, Malcolm.

Booked: Ricksen, McCann.

Att: 58,787

Ref: M McCurry




WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC Five Live's David Oates
"The goal was a rare moment of quality"


Celtic boss Martin O'Neill
"It was a brilliant, brilliant goal"


Rangers boss Alex McLeish
"We're still in pole position"



RANGERS

CELTIC

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