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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 January, 2004, 14:21 GMT
Celtic 3-0 Rangers
Alan Thompson celebrates scoring Celtic's third goal
Celtic stretched their lead at the top of the league to 11 points with a comfortable victory over Rangers.

A Stilian Petrov header was the difference between the teams at half time, with Rangers having failed to test Rab Douglas in the home goal.

Celtic continued to dominate after the break and Stanislav Varga added a second goal on the hour mark.

Alan Thompson scored a superb third goal to give Celtic a record 18th successive league win.

Celtic started positively and earned a succession of corners, that were dealt with by an uneasy looking Rangers defence.

Shota Arveladze missed his kick inside the six-yard box after Craig Moore had knocked the ball down in a rare foray into the Celtic area.

Stefan Klos pulled off a tremendous reaction save after quarter-of-an-hour when Bobo Balde powered a header in from eight yards, only for the keeper to push the ball away.

John Hartson fired just over from 20 yards but Celtic's pressure paid off after 19 minutes.

Henrik Larsson picked out the unmarked Petrov at the back post and though Klos got a hand to the Bulgarian's diving header, the ball came off both posts before trickling over the line.

Stefan Klos' best efforts cannot keep Stilian Petrov's header out
Stefan Klos' best efforts cannot keep Stilian Petrov's header out
There was little quality football being played, with Celtic content to play high balls up to their frontmen, while Rangers were barely able to string three passes together.

Gavin Rae's Rangers debut was brought to an end after only 35 minutes, as a recurrence of a hamstring injury forced him off.

Celtic did put together an impressive move a couple of minutes before half time, which saw Didier Agathe skip past a couple of challenges on the right, but Alan Thompson's glancing header from the Frenchman's cross fell just wide.

Celtic appeared content to allow Rangers possession at the beginning of the second half, with Alex McLeish's men finding it impossible to breach the home defence.

Larsson almost doubled Celtic's lead after 58 minutes when he got his toe to a free kick to divert it towards goal, only for the post to deny him.

Moore knocked the rebound behind and from the resultant corner, Celtic did add a second.

Balde headed the ball back across goal and Varga powered it past the helpless Klos as the Rangers defence stood and watched.

Michael Mols came close to bringing Rangers back into the game shortly afterwards when he got the better of Balde in the box before firing a shot on the turn inches past the post.

With 15 minutes remaining, Klos came to Rangers' rescue again when Thompson's free kick came off the head of Henning Berg, but the German dived full length to keep it out, although the referee had spotted an offside.

But Klos could do nothing in the 84th minute when Thompson curled an exquisite free kick over the wall and in off the bar to complete Rangers' misery.

Moments later Arveladze smashed the ball against the bar, denying Rangers even a consolation goal.

Celtic: Douglas, Agathe, Balde, Varga, McNamara, Petrov, Lennon, Sutton, Thompson, Larsson, Hartson (Miller 82).

Subs Not Used: Hedman, Maloney, Wallace, Crainey.

Rangers: Klos, Ricksen, Moore, Berg, Ball, Burke, Arteta, Rae (Mols 35), Malcolm (Capucho 74), Lovenkrands, Arveladze.

Subs Not Used: McGregor, Vanoli, Ross.

Booked: Ball, Arteta, Moore, Lovenkrands.

Att: 59,087

Ref: S Dougal

Celtic boss Martin O'Neill
"Our players were really excellent today"

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