SPL v Celtic
DUNFERMLINE 0 CELTIC 2 Date: 12/12/04
Fixture: BOS SPL Premier League
Attendance: 7650 Kick Off: 14:00
Referee: Hugh Dallas Weather: Dry 7C
Many supporters of both clubs chose the heat of the Christmas shops in preference to the seasonal weather of East End Park. They missed a match that Celtic won comfortably although Dunfermline did not give up despite going two behind with an hour to go. Goals from Sutton and Petrov allowed Celtic to relax in the knowledge that was enough to put them back on top of the SPL and tease the Pars into testing their towering defence.
Davie Hay had Simon Donnelly and Billy Mehmet back to see if they could form the striking partnership that he is needing, Aaron Labonte returned after his one match suspension for his red card at Motherwell meaning Greg Ross, Thomas Butler and Stephen Bradley were back on the bench. The Pars were out to build on the confidence of their last home match a 4-1 victory over Kilmarnock but the SPL Champions were never going to be the easiest opposition. Celtic fielded the same starting eleven as faced AC Milan in midweek and against Hibs in the previous SPL match as they kicked off towards the Norrie McCathie Stand.
Within 90 seconds Dunfermline could have been ahead when an enterprising move breached the Celtic defence. Donnelly on the left touch line fed Dempsey, then Mehmet who in turn played a good through ball that Mason took to the bye line before sending over a fine ball towards Young and Nicholson. Barry did get his head to it but not enough to turn it past Hedman and all that landed in the net was Darren Young
In the fourth minute John Hartson was on the end of a Petrov ball in from the right corner flag but Derek Stillie turned the good effort from close in around his left hand post. Varga had a chance from the resulting corner but Donnelly stepped in to steal the ball away. Play was open and Young was able to drive in a low shot when Thompson lost possession but unlucky it was wide right.
At the other end Labonte conceded a second Celtic corner in the 7th minute but Thompson blasted this one over the crossbar after Stillie had fisted away the delivery from the left. The visitors came closer though in the next minute when a long ball from Aiden McGeady reached Petrov on the left side of the box and the Pars keeper was forced to save with his legs.
When McNamara`s long ball let Sutton in for a header at target and Stillie was forced to push the ball behind to his left for another corner. Thompson whipped in a cross that Chris SUTTON rose to direct into the Pars net with fifteen and a half minutes gone.
Celtic immediately looked to build on their lead with the goalscorer`s square ball picking out Jackie McNamara on the right wing. The big ball returned into the Pars box was defended only as far as Hartson but fortunately the Welshman was closed down. Respite came for the Fifers with a free kick midway inside the Celtic half. Barry Nicholson took the set piece and the defence sent it straight back to him. This time the Scottish internationalist shot but McNamara deflected it wide for a Dunfermline corner. Hedman held this with ease.
A poor Stillie kick out in the 25th minute went low to Petrov and his opportunist shot from distance had the home support worried. There was some hope as the Pars pushed up two minutes later. On the left side of the Celtic box Andy Tod was on the end of a high ball in from Dempsey and his lay off was driven in by skipper Scott Thomson. His well struck shot was deflected for another corner on the right. Tod tried to turn in Nicholson`s cross but the Celtic defence dealt easily with it. Dunfermline persevered Mehmet, Donnelly and Dempsey combining before Varga dispatched the ball into the crowd in the North East Stand. The throw in from Thomson allowed Mason to prod a useful ball into the left side of the Celtic penalty box where Donnelly and Dempsey were stopped.
In the 31st minute Celtic got their second goal of the match in quite spectacular style. After Labonte conceded a free kick down on the right side of defence, McGeady swept over a right footed cross that was only partially cleared to the right side of the box 15 yards out. There seemed to be a great amount of time as the ball dropped out of the sky but the defence could not reach Stillian PETROV fast enough to prevent him hammering home and bulging the net. The Bulgarian`s black tights that he was wearing to protect himself from the plastic pitch, did not prevent an acrobatic finish.
Aaron Labonte did his best to close Petrov down
Celtic then piled on the pressure. Balde was near to heading in a long Thompson ball at the far post, Stillie pushing it away for a corner. The corner was not properly cleared and Gary Dempsey found himself presenting Celtic a free kick on the edge of the right side of the penalty area just seven yards from the bye line. Darren Young headed Thompson`s cross away but the danger wasn`t fully extinguished until Billy Mehmet booted away.
The Pars had a tame attempt through Dempsey after Nicholson and Donnelly had nicely switched play and the half ended in familiar circumstances with Labonte turning away a ball that Sutton had sent across the face of the Pars goal.
Celtic resumed the second half as they had finished the first with Scott Thomson forced to head a Thompson free kick behind for a corner within the first minute. The Pars did forced three corners in quick succession with Andy Tod creating a threat. The nearest thing to beating Hedman was a header from Mehmet that the keeper touched over the bar.
A fast flowing move almost gave Hartson a goal in the 53rd minute after Petrov picked out Sutton who switched it to his co-striker but it was the crossbar that denied him and then Sutton melted his attempt high into the crowd. Stillie held a low Hartson shot three minutes later while at the other end a mistake from Varga let Mehmet break on goal but his touch was too great and Hedman came out to smother the ball.
Davie Hay`s men rallied with some spirited play. Both Thomson and Labonte pushed up the flanks and Celtic began to lose possession to the homesters. A pacey move from Mason through Tod to Young ended up on the right with Labonte but his delivery met with no takers. Dunfermline looked much better as they strung passes together and winning more corners. At one point all but Stillie were inside the final third of the pitch at the Celtic end and Celtic`s chances of increasing their lead were reduced to breakaways.
The Pars defence survived a Petrov break into the right side of the box to cut back from the bye line for Hartson. Best Dunfermline chance came five minutes from time when Nicholson who raced into the Celtic box to head Dempsey`s cross over the bar.
So in the end even with a considerable amount of Pars effort it was yet another home defeat at the hands of Celtic. Ross Jack and Istvan Kozma were in the Pars side that last defeated Celtic in the league at East End Park back in 1989, unfortunately that record never looked like changing during this encounter.
Celtic Squad: Hedman; McNamara, Valgaeren, Balde, Varga; McGeady, Lennon, Petrov, Thompson; Hartson, Sutton
Celtic Subs: Marshall, Juninho, Lambert, Laursen, Camara, Wallace, Lawson
Celtic Goal Scorers: Sutton (16), Petrov (31)
Ladbrokes Championship: Saturday 22nd April, Dunfermline v Falkirk kick off 3.00pm