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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 April, 2005, 20:38 GMT 21:38 UK
Livingston 0-4 Celtic
Hartson celebrates his strike
John Hartson brought his brief goal drought to a spectacular end with a hat-trick to take Celtic back to the top of the Scottish Premier League.

Livingston coped well with Celtic until just before the break, when Hartson lashed the ball in from close range.

Hartson made sure of the points with a powerful header and added a third from the penalty spot.

Stan Varga added a fourth in injury time from little more than a yard after confusion in the Livingston box.

Neither goalkeeper was troubled in the opening quarter, with a Stilian Petrov shot that was deflected wide and Burton O'Brien's effort over the bar the closest either team came to hitting the target.

But Roddy McKenzie was called into action to block a Craig Bellamy shot after an unfortunate ricochet off David McNamee allowed the Welshman a free run on goal.

A terrific piece of defending by Oscar Rubio four minutes before the break prevented Celtic from taking the lead.

Bellamy burst clear and then unselfishly squared the ball to Hartson but Rubio got back to block his effort, though crucially picked up an injury in the process.

That meant he was not on the pitch moments later when Jackie McNamara hoisted a high ball into the box and when it broke off McNamee, Hartson thumped it past McKenzie from eight yards with the aid of a deflection off Manu Dorado.

McKenzie made another fine block 10 minutes into the second half to deny Bellamy, whose incredible speed had taken him clear.

Hartson was in fine form again
Hartson was in fine form again

David Marshall kept his side in front midway through the second period with a superb save to tip Jason Dair's top-corner-bound shot over the bar.

Hartson put the result beyond doubt with his second goal of the evening with 15 minutes remaining, heading emphatically into the net from Alan Thompson's corner.

The Welsh frontman sealed his hat-trick in the closing minutes from the penalty spot, sending McKenzie the wrong way after Gus Bahoken was penalised for barging Hartson.

Marshall saved a decent effort on the turn from Derek Lilley and an Eric Deloumeaux shot flew narrowly wide, but there was to be no consolation for Livingston.

And Varga rubbed salt in their wounds, tapping in from a yard out after McNamee's clearance came back off a fellow defender.

Livingston: McKenzie, McNamee, Rubio (McPake 83), Dorado, Bahoken (Nouma 68), Dair, Deloumeaux, Vincze, O'Brien, Lilley, Kachloul.

Subs Not Used: Meldrum, McMenamin, Snodgrass, Easton, Brittain.

Booked: McNamee.

Celtic: Marshall, Valgaeren, Balde (McGeady 88), Varga, McNamara, Petrov, Sutton (Henchoz 77), Lennon, Thompson, Bellamy, Hartson.

Subs Not Used: Hedman, Fernandez, Lambert, Maloney, Wallace.

Booked: Thompson.

Goals: Hartson 43, 75, 86 pen, Varga 90.

Att: 8,750

Ref: M McCurry

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