SPL v Celtic
CELTIC 1 DUNFERMLINE 2 Date: 02/05/04
Fixture: BOS SPL Premier League
Attendance: 59739, Kick Off: 15:00
Referee: Dougie McDonald Weather: Overcast 14ºC
When Dunfermline travelled to Glasgow to meet Celtic on Sunday it was the next trip to Glasgow to meet them at Hampden in the Cup Final that every Pars fan is looking forward to. For those dedicated fans that made the trip they were rewarded with Dunfermline`s first victory at Celtic Park since August 1997 and of course Jimmy Calderwood`s first victory over Martin O`Neill`s team.
Not surprisingly Craig Brewster and Stevie Crawford were sidelined really as a precaution against aggravating small injuries that will certainly not keep them out of the 22nd May meeting.
Billy Mehmet came in to the team that defeated Motherwell in the previous match as Dunfermline kicked off playing east to west.
From the kick off Celtic dismissed any thoughts that their resolve might be diminished and complacency might be ready to set in. Greg Shields playing in the centre of a back three was in early defensive action beating off the run of Jamie Smith into the right side of the Pars box.
Derek Stillie pulled off a great save in the 6th minute diving to his left to tip an Alan Thompson header from 10 yards out for a corner. Young Aidan McGeady had supplied the return for Thompson and the promising Celtic number 46 was popping out everywhere.
Celtic’s continued possession caused more danger for Dunfermline. Paul Lambert’s pass to Larsson on the edge of the box was fed back for Sutton who dispatched a shot high over the bar. The Pars first chance came in the 12th minute courtesy of a poor Mjallby clearance. Gary Dempsey gathered and despite the close attentions of Neil Lennon swung in a shot that Marshall held with ease.
A Thompson corner on the right was played back for Lennon to hit well but high of target. Varga wasted a free kick 30 yards out after Skerla had fouled Larsson. The Dunfermline defence soaked up the pressure with Gary Mason doing a good man marking role on McGeady.
Then Celtic Park was silenced when Dunfermline dared to score. Dempsey and Mehmet combined to send Lee Bullen on a run up the left. His first cross towards Derek Young on the left edge of the six yard box was blocked out by keeper David Marshall. Bully collected the ball and sent a clever long ball over with his right foot for NICHOLSON on the far side of the box. As Marshall scrambled back across goal the Pars captain volleyed the ball in at the right post to open the scoring in the 28th minute.
Celtic’s efforts continued to be from long range. Sutton volleyed a Mjallby cross over the top in 34th minute. Varga hit a free kick high over the bar from 30 yards. Shields conceded a corner when Lambert’s cross was taken off the head of Henrik Larsson. Then Larsson hit a 41st minute free kick over Stillie’s bar but a disciplined Fife defence kept the Champions at bay.
Indeed there were chances at the other end before the half time whistle’ Darren Young won the visitors first corner in the 44th minute when his shot went out off McManus. Barry Nicholson sent in a right footed cross that Bullen won in the air but was over the bar with his effort.
Celtic were out early for the second half and their haste quickly got then back into the match. A corner won on the left was sent right footed in by McGeady and Henrik LARSSON got his head between the challenge of Nicholson and Shields to score at the near post. Not the first time that the Swede has scored a goal like this against the Pars.
Surprisingly it was Dunfermline that took the filip from the Celtic goal. For the next ten minutes they were allowed to keep possession and sweep the ball about the park. Noel Hunt replaced Billy Mehmet before the Dunfermline pressure was punctuated by another Dunfermline goal. Mason’s ball to Darren Young was given to Gary DEMSPEY who was given time to shoot from 25yards out. The low driven ball bounced on the six yard line and beat the outstretched Marshall.
Celtic were almost back into it immediately when Varga’s header from a Thompson corner came off the base of the Pars right post. Mjallby hit the rebound but Stillie saved and Mason’s overhead kick sent the ball out for another corner. Stillie and Thompson were yellow carded after a soft head butt by the Celtic player and a reaction by the Pars keeper.
In the 71st minute Noel Hunt took the play to the other end and beat off Mjallby and Varga to get in as short from the angle on the left side of the six yard box to be saved by Marshall. McGeady’s shot five minutes later was over the bar and Craig Beattie was then introduced for him. Beattie caused mayhem with immediate effect.
The substitute drove in from the right and played a one-two off Larsson before sending in a stinging shot from 18 yards to cue another great Stillie save. Next Beattie got round the defence to send over a ball that Varga met at the far post. The big man managed to divert the ball over the bar when it must have been easier to net.
In the 81st minute Dunfermline survived a 25 yard Thompson free kick and then intense Celtic pressure right through to the 94th minute. Celtic were encamped in the Pars penalty box but header after header cleared the danger. Tackles were timely and the blocking was brilliant. Stillie was called on time again and with the very last move of the game the BBC Television Man of the Match denied Varga from close quarters.
So it was two home defeats in a row for Celtic who incredibly have not won an SPL match at home since February. Could the Celtic bubble be burst? Balde, Petrov, McNamara and Agathe can all be back for the Final. Great performance though for the Pars without Crawford and Brewster as well! JC now knows the way to beat Celtic and remember what happened to Hibs when he discovered how to beat them in Edinburgh!
Celtic: Marshall; Mjallby, Varga, McManus (Pearson HT); Smith (Miller 56), Lennon, Lambert, McGeady (Beattie 76), Thomson, Larsson, Sutton
Celtic Subs: Douglas, Wallace
Celtic Goal Scorers: Larsson (47)
Celtic Yellow: Thompson (69)
Ladbrokes Championship: Saturday 18th March, Dunfermline v Ayr United kick off 3.00pm