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BBC Scotland's Alistair Alexander and Murdo MacLeod
report from Celtic Park
 real 14k

Celtic manager, Martin O'Neill
"Winning the game today was very important."
 real 14k

Hibs manager, Alex McLeish
"We are a bit disappointed with the first Celtic goal."
 real 14k

Saturday, 9 September, 2000, 18:47 GMT 19:47 UK
Celtic cruise to the top
Henrik Larsson heads home his second goal of the game
Henrik Larsson heads home his second goal
Celtic 3-0 Hibernian

Celtic maintained their magnificent 100% record under manager Martin O'Neill to move to the top of the SPL table with a comfortable 3-0 win over Hibs.

The visitors had been in pole position before kick off but a first half double from Henrik Larsson and a late goal from substitute Mark Burchill knocked the Easter Road side off their lofty perch.

Celtic dominated from start to finish and played with a fine blend of finesse and ferocity that had their fans purring with delight.

The margin of victory could have been greater had it not been for a number of good saves from Hibs goalkeeper Nick Colgan and the cool defending of French veteran Franck Sauzee.

The game began at a brisk pace with both sides intent on passing the ball to feet. However, players were given no time to dwell as opponents were quick to close each other down.

As the game progressed, the flow of play turned more and more towards the goal Hibs were defending.

Fierce drive

In the sixth minute Jackie McNamara dragged a shot wide of the target after cutting in cleverly from the right flank and, soon after, Colgan had to look lively to tip a fierce drive from Lubo Moravcik over the bar.

Alan Stubbs was stretchered off the park after 10 minutes following a full-blooded clash with Hibs midfielder Matthias Jack.

Swedish international Johan Mjallby replaced the big English defender.

Alan Thompson made a bright start to his SPL debut and it was the former Aston Villa man who was instrumental in giving Celtic the lead.

Thompson juggled the ball on the edge of the box and, although he appeared to wrestle Sauzee to the ground, he was allowed to carry on his run.

As the loose ball bounced towards the by-line, Colgan raced from his goal and rashly clattered into the chasing Thompson - appearing to punch the Celtic player on the side of the head.

Larsson strokes home the penalty kick
Larsson strokes home the penalty kick
It was a ludicrous decision from the Hibernian custodian, who had only conceded one goal in his six previous SPL matches, as the situation did not appear to present a serious threat.

Larsson converted the resulting penalty with ease after Colgan had dived to his left very early.

Hibs threatened the Celtic goal for the first time after 25 minutes when John O'Neil raced clear of the home defence but goalkeeper Jonathan Gould did well to block the midfielder's shot.

Controlled aggression

Celtic continued to play the ball around with great composure and snapped into every tackle with controlled aggression. Hibs' playmakers, O'Neil and Latapy were given no time to get their feet on the ball.

With half-time approaching, David Zitelli tried his luck with a free kick from fully 40 yards out but Gould stopped the ball comfortably.

At the other end Colgan did well to block a Moravcik shot at his near post.

Seconds before the interval Celtic doubled their advantage, and it was a second goal for Larsson.

Thompson floated in a good cross from the left and there was a queue of Celtic players waiting in the Hibs penalty box. The Swede got up highest and expertly nodded the ball high into the net.

Celtic began the second period at the same breathtaking pace and Thompson blazed a blistering shot just wide of the post with the Hibs defence still picking orange pith from their teeth.

Hibs had a case for a penalty when Tom Boyd appeared to tug Mixu Paatelainen down in the Celtic penalty box. However, referee John Rowbotham appeared unsighted.

Thompson again went close to scoring when his free kick whizzed narrowly past Colgan's goal.

Brave block

With 20 minutes remaining, only a brave block by Colgan denied Larsson a hat-trick after a clever pass from Chris Sutton had sent his striking partner scampering goalward.

Unsurprisingly, the tempo of the game dipped and Hibs were able to enjoy more possession.

Larsson shields the ball from Paul Fenwick
Larsson shields the ball from Paul Fenwick
The Easter Road side should have pulled one back when a Sauzee free kick found Tom Smith who's cross was headed down by Paatelainen to Stuart Lovell.

Lovell's shot was saved by Gould and the rebound was taken off O'Neil's toes just yards from goal by his over-anxious team-mate Dirk Lehmann with the goal gaping empty.

Rock at the back

Sauzee, who was a rock at the back for Hibs all afternoon, kept the score down with a goal-line block after Sutton had managed to wriggle his way past Colgan.

The Hibs captain was injured in the process, having stopped the ball with a rather sensitive part of his body.

Celitc grabbed a third goal in injury time when Paul Lambert, looking suspiciously offside, drew Colgan before squaring the ball to substitute Burchill - who had the simple task of tapping it into an empty net.

Stilian Petrov could have added a fourth in the dying seconds but Colgan was quick off his line to clear at the Bulgarian's feet.


Celtic: Gould, Boyd, Valgaeren, Stubbs, McNamara, Lambert, Petrov, Moravcik, Thompson, Larsson, Sutton.

Subs: Kerr, Berkovic, Johnson, Burchill, Mjallby.

Hibernian: Colgan, G. Smith, Fenwick, Jack, T. Smith, Lovell, Sauzee, Latapy, O'Neil, Zitelli, Paatelainen.

Subs: Westwater, Brebner, Lehmann, Bannerman, Sar.

Referee: John Rowbotham

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