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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 April, 2004, 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK
Celtic win Scottish title
Stilian Petrov celebrates opening the scoring
Kilmarnock 0-1 Celtic

Celtic clinched their third Scottish title in four years thanks to a single strike by Stilian Petrov at Rugby Park.

Kilmarnock might have taken the lead, but Kris Boyd's goal was ruled out for a push by Eric Skora on Bobo Balde.

Stanislav Varga had hit the post for Celtic and Killie goalkeeper Colin Meldrum saved from Petrov's feet before Celtic scored the game's only goal.

Petrov converted after a neat flick from Henrik Larsson and Celtic held on to secure another league title.

Celtic have now gone unbeaten through 32 SPL games this season and are 16 points clear of second-placed Rangers.

Goalkeeper Rab Douglas, defender Johan Mjallby and midfielder Paul Lambert have not started many games in recent weeks but were handed the chance to be on the field for the title party by boss Martin O'Neill.

David Marshall, Liam Miller and Joos Valgaeren were the men to drop out after the midweek Uefa Cup defeat by Villarreal.

And Celtic almost took an early lead when a mis-hit shot from Jackie McNamara fell to Varga and the defender poked the ball on to the post from eight yards.

But Kilmarnock were determined to spoil Celtic's celebrations and were unlucky not to go ahead themselves after 15 minutes.

Striker Boyd hammered the ball from an acute angle into the far corner of the net, only for Skora to be penalised for what referee Mike McCurry ruled was a foul on Balde.

Killie goalkeeper Meldrum, told this week he will not be given a new contract, saved at the feet of Petrov and Stephen Pearson's drive from the rebound was cleared off the line by Garry Hay.

Celtic made the breakthrough after 31 minutes, Larsson flicking the ball for Petrov to slip it past Meldrum.

The Kilmarnock goalkeeper saved superbly at full stretch to stop Larsson's curling free kick to the far corner as Celtic enjoyed a good spell of possession.

But the home team continued to cause Celtic problems.

Boyd sliced wide after Murray's mis-hit found the striker unmarked eight yards out and he also tested Douglas with a 20-yard free kick.

A drive from Danny Invincibile flashed across the face of the Celtic goal as Kilmarnock created the first threat of a second half during which the visitors looked more interested in holding their lead than adding to it.

But Killie were thankful for a one-handed stop by Meldrum after a powerful 18-yard drive by substitute Miller.

And, at the final whistle, Celtic started to celebrate at the ground where they lost their title last season.


Kilmarnock: Meldrum, Lilley, Greer, Dindeleux, Hay, Fowler, Locke, Skora, Murray, Boyd, Invincibile.
Subs: Smith, McSwegan, Dargo, McDonald, Dodds.

Celtic: Douglas, Balde, Varga, Mjallby, Agathe, Lennon, Lambert, Pearson, McNamara, Larsson, Petrov.
Subs: Marshall, Sylla, Wallace, Smith, Miller.

Referee: M McCurry.


WATCH AND LISTEN
Celtic boss Martin O'Neill
"To win it with this number of games in hand is magnificent"



SEE ALSO
Best title yet for O'Neill
18 Apr 04  |  Scottish Premier
Brown blasts ref McCurry
18 Apr 04  |  Scottish Premier
Celtic's season in pictures
18 Apr 04  |  Photo Galleries
Celtic to pay for damage
18 Apr 04  |  Scottish Premier



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