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Last Updated: Saturday, 30 August, 2003, 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK
Larsson destroys Livingston
Henrik Larsson celebrates at Celtic Park
Henrik Larsson was celebrating three goals at Celtic Park
Celtic 5-1 Livingston

Henrik Larsson grabbed a hat-trick as Celtic went to the top of the Scottish Premier League for the first time this season with a convincing victory over a disappointing Livingston.

Shaun Maloney and Alan Thompson scored the other goals in a match during which Livingston did not threaten Magnus Hedman until Derek Lilley rounded the Celtic goalkeeper for a consolation goal after 85 minutes.

Signs are that Hedman is winning his battle with Rab Douglas for the Celtic goalkeeper's jersey, the Swede starting for a second successive game.

Midweek scorer Chris Sutton dropped out through suspension following the 1-0 win over MTK Hungaria in qualifying for the Champions League group stages.

Maloney started beside Larsson up front, while Jackie McNamara came in for Stephen Crainey and Paul Lambert made way for Neil Lennon.

Livi head coach Marcio Maximo replaced Burton O'Brien with Cherif Toure-Maman following their 2-1 defeat by Dundee.

Maximo set his stall out to defend, with only Fernando Pasquinelli up front, and Celtic quickly established a dominance of possession.

It looked only a matter of time before the home side opened the scoring, but they squandered a glorious opportunity after 13 minutes.

Maloney was needlessly brought down by David McNamee inside the box, but Thompson sent his spot kick well wide of the post.

The Englishman made amends after 25 minutes, when he supplied an excellent cross that found Larsson granted a ridiculous amount of space to head home from eight yards.

Stilian Petrov somehow managed to sit on the ball instead of driving it home from a similar distance after being set up by Larsson minutes later.

Henrik Larsson scores against Livingston
Henrik Larsson was badly marked by Livingston's defence
Larsson came close to his second with a curling free-kick that struck the face of the bar.

The second finally arrived when Larsson found Thompson unmarked and the midfielder's powerful drive was parried into the air by goalkeeper Alan Main.

Maloney was on hand to head the rebound home.

A last-ditch block from Rubio prevented Liam Miller adding Celtic's third after the break.

But Larsson did add another moments later, when he headed home Petrov's cross after an ineffective parry on the line by Main.

Larsson was allowed time to pick his spot from 22 yards after 77 minutes and he blasted the ball into the top corner as Celtic headed to the top of the table at least until champions Rangers play on Sunday.

Lilley pulled one back late on with Livingston's first shot on target before Thompson restored Celtic's advantage with a low, driven free-kick in the dying seconds.

Celtic: Hedman, McNamara (Crainey 78), Balde, Varga, Agathe (Sylla 71), Lennon, Petrov (Hartson 57), Miller, Thompson, Larsson, Maloney.
Subs Not Used: Douglas, Beattie.

Goals: Larsson 25, Maloney 39, Larsson 56, 77, Thompson 90.

Livingston: Main, McNamee (Scott McLaughlin 87), Rubio, Andrews, McAllister, Wilson (Camacho 69), Makel, McGovern, Kerr, Pasquinelli, Toure-Maman (Lilley 45).
Subs Not Used: McKenzie, English.

Booked: Pasquinelli, Rubio.

Goal: Lilley 85.

Attendance: 57,165

Referee: W Young

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