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Last Updated: Saturday, 27 September, 2003, 13:28 GMT 14:28 UK
Gutsy Celtic see off Hibs
Henrik Larsson celebrates his winner
Henrik Larsson celebrates his winner
Hibernian 1-2 Celtic

Celtic produced another accomplished performance to earn three more valuable points in the SPL title race.

Hibs were the better side in the opening half and deservedly took the lead through Mathias Doumbe after 38 minutes.

But the turning point in the match came just a minute later when Celtic won a penalty and Alan Thompson converted it to take the sides in level at the interval.

Celtic came out looking for an improved second half and scored the vital goal through Henrik Larsson just six minutes after the break.

Bobo Balde was red-carded with 20 minutes to go for violent conduct, but Hibs failed to capitalise.

Hibs were the first to seriously threaten the opposition goal in 10 minutes when Ian Murray headed Alen Orman's cross back across goal, but Balde's challenge was sufficient to prevent Garry O'Connor opening the scoring.

Moments later, Balde was again required to divert O'Connor's drive wide of target following good work by Grant Brebner down the Hibs right.

Stilian Petrov had Celtic's first real opportunity of the game after 19 minutes, but his drive from the edge of the box flew just wide.

Hibs were let off the hook when Doumbe relinquished possession to Shaun Maloney on the edge of the box, but though the youngster picked out Larsson in plenty space, the Swede headed wide when he should have scored.

Balde foiled O'Connor again with a vital interception after Murray released him and then Stephen Dobbie fired wide with a powerful shot from outside the box.

Hibs took a deserved lead seven minutes before half time when Doumbe tapped in from two yards after Colin Murdock had nodded Stephen Glass' corner into his path.

But within 90 seconds, Celtic were level. Jarkko Wiss rashly pulled Petrov down in the box and Thompson calmly slotted the penalty past Daniel Andersson.

Chris Sutton should have given the visitors the lead before half time, but his close-range effort was weak and Andersson was able to save.

Larsson came close to giving Celtic the lead a few minutes after the interval with a shot that Andersson managed to block before Murdock cleared the danger.

Then Balde headed narrowly wide despite finding himself with a free header only eight yards out.

But Celtic did take the lead after 51 minutes when Stan Varga picked out Maloney, who in turn found Larsson, who had the simple task of tapping into an empty net.

Andersson kept his side in the game with a fabulous save on the hour mark from Maloney who had found himself clean through on goal only for the keeper to push his effort wide.

Hibs were given some hope of salvaging at least a point in 69 minutes when Balde lashed out with his foot at Scott Brown and was punished with a straight red card.

Brebner almost grabbed an equaliser 10 minutes later with a 25-yard volley that Magnus Hedman was happy to watch land inches wide, and that was as close as Hibs came to taking anything from the game.

Hibernian: Andersson, Orman, Murdock, Doumbe, Edge, Murray, Brebner, Wiss (Riordan 74), Glass (McManus 77), Dobbie (Scott Brown 66), O'Connor.

Subs Not Used: Hyldgaard, Whittaker.

Booked: Murdock, Scott Brown.

Celtic: Hedman, Varga, Balde, McNamara, Agathe, Lennon, Sutton, Petrov, Thompson, Maloney (Miller 76), Larsson.

Subs Not Used: Douglas, Gray, Hartson, Kennedy.

Sent Off: Balde (70).

Booked: Thompson, Maloney, Varga.

Att: 12,032

Ref: A Freeland

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