SPL v Celtic

CELTIC 5 DUNFERMLINE 0 Date: 08/11/03

Fixture: BOS SPL Premier League

Attendance: 58328, Kick Off: 15:00

Referee: Mike McCurry,Weather: Dry 9c. Cold easterly wind

Another visit to Celtic Park and another five goal defeat. No matter what the management team try it invariably ends up in a drubbing at Parkhead. This time my Calderwood tried a containing game with his declared mission seeming to be that his team could "come away with their heads held high". For 77 minutes it appeared to be working but then four goals in ten second half minutes turned it into yet another mission impossible.

Billy Mehmet and Aaron Labonte were handed their starting debuts as Jimmy Calderwood went for youthful legs to test Celtic. Lee Bullen returned to the team in place of injured Barry Nicholson. Celtic had Rab Douglas back in place of Hedman and Sean Maloney replaced young Liam Miller.

Scott Thomson led out the Pars who emerged from the tunnel alongside Celtic. Gerry and the Pacemakers were next and the anthem had all but finished when Dunfermline kicked off defending the goals at the Lisbon Lions Stand end. Celtic went straight into it however with Derek Stillie forced into a save from Petrov after only 27 seconds after Sutton’s drive had rebounded off Andrius Skerla.

The Pars went forward with Scott Thomson pushing up the left but it was Celtic who won back possession and pushed the Pars back. In the 5th minute a Scott Wilson foul on Petrov allowed Maloney a pop at goal from 35 yards out. His right footed shot dipped too late and skimmed off the roof of the net.

Four minutes later Petrov passed the ball from the half way line down the left wing for Henrik Larrson and he whipped over a pacy cross that Petrov just failed to connect at the far post. The Pars won the first corner of the game in the 10th minute after Darren Young had switched play to Andy McDermott who was in acres of space on the right. The new boy, playing in only his second match had his cross turned behind but the corner only saw Bobo Balde head the ball away and Gary Mason`s shot was blocked out. Next the former Man City man was yellow carded for chopping down Maloney 35 yards out.

This time Celtic evaded the four man wall by slipping the ball wide for Varga. He fed the ball on to Agathe who beat off Labonte and Wilson had to step in to concede the corner. In defending the corner Aaron Labonte was sent away on the break but he failed to take the opportunity and lost the ball back to Celtic.

The 17th minute saw Celtic miss the best chance of the game that far when McNamara`s pass was played by Hartson to Larsson but Wilson`s challenge on Larsson did enough to force the ace striker to shoot past the right goalpost. The following minute Jackie sent in another ball from the left that Hartson turned back for Chris Sutton but his effort went high over the top.

When Stanislav Varga gave away a free kick on the right Scott Thomson was presented with the opportunity to swing in a dangerous ball into the box. Lee Bullen did rise to connect but was well wide to the left of goal with the header. This was a brief respite play quickly returned to the Pars goalmouth when Wilson was forced to head a Larrson cross behind for a corner. Stillian Petrov eventually sent the ball into the box but Sutton`s return was easily clutched by Stillie.

A Petrov ball to Hartson was stabbed away by McDermott and a Larsson cross from the left was headed at Stillie by Sutton. Dunfermline hardly looked like giving Rab Douglas the necessary match practice ahead of Scotland`s big Euro 2004 play off next Saturday but they were seeing a fair amount of the ball. Just when it looked as though the Pars were to try something an unfortunate ball from Crawford to Mason presented Celtic with the kind of opening they rarely mess up.

Henrik Larsson gained possession as Craw`s ball deceived Mason and the Swede stole away on a run from the left side of his own half into the centre of the Pars half before picking out Didier Agathe on the right. Labonte`s challenge failed to stop the cross and John HARTSON was on hand to sweep the ball into the left side of the net with the ball seeming to bounce up off the park making it hard to stop. The goal came in the 23rd minute but for the second quarter of the game Celtic rarely looked like altering that.

On the half hour Stevie Crawford did well to get himself into a shooting position receiving the ball back from Mehmet but fired wildly wide and out for a throw in. The visitors did come into things for a period but never caused Douglas any problems. The Pars defence was well organised and Thomson was yellow carded for complaining too much when Wilson`s tackle on Hartson was whistled up.

Maloney took the free kick and hit it over the wall into Stillie`s hands. The half finished with Skerla dealing with a Larsson - Hartson move that sent Maloney bursting into the Pars penalty box.

Half Time 1-0

The interval talk contained speculation over Celtic`s fatigue after their European Champions League match in midweek but even if that was the case there were few in the 58,328 who believed that Dunfermline had the spark that might cause the Hoops to concede what would only be their second home goal of this season`s SPL.

Six minutes into the second half Scott Wilson stepped in to save Stevie Crawford`s blushes when the Pars striker, midway inside his own half, had found Larsson yet again. Next minute Larsson took a free kick 20 yards out on the left side. He slipped the ball back for Varga to crash a shot at goal but the big man was well wide of Stillie`s left hand post.

A Larsson shot rebounded off Stillie and Wilson scooped the ball away. Varga headed an Agathe corner wide and Sutton forced another save out of Stillie after Hatrson made the opening for the Englishman to burst through the centre of the defence.

Dunfermline`s counterattack through Crawford and Mehmet ended when Crawford was penalised for pinning down Agathe. There were cheers of irony when Douglas got a feel of the ball on the hour but just after Dempsey came on for Mason the Celtic No. 20 leapt into action to deny Dunfermline with a fanastic save.

Crawford swung the ball in for Bullen on the edge of the penalty box and his pass back into the D set up Mehmet with a crack at goal. The well struck effort looked destined for the net but Rab stretched up to his right and tipped the ball on to the crossbar. The ball crashed down on to the line and was cleared. The linesman appeared to be badly placed to make a judgement on whether or not the ball had crossed the line so play raced on.

Celtic manager Martin O`Neil later described this incident as the "pivotal moment of the game". The chance raised the Pars belief but also awoke the Celts to the danger of a single goal lead. Rallied by their fans Sutton tried to put through Hartson but Stillie was quickly out to snuff out the danger.

Craig Brewster came on for McDermott and Ross Wallace for Maloney in one of the longest substitution calls caused by the fourth official. Eighty seconds from start to finish as John Gilmour found the electronics a severe test for him.

So it was the 74th minute when Labonte switched to right back to look after the Celtic sub and Brewster was pushed up to try and resurrect something from the game. It was quickly evident however that Wallace was going to cause problems. His ball to Larsson allowed a one two that Henrik sent over the top. Next McNamara fed Hartson a ball into the box that Skerla got back to Stiile for a hoof away.

In the 77th minute Petrov worked a route through the centre to lay a ball off right for HARTSON and the big Welshman brushed off the challenge of Skerla to net at an angle from 12 yards. There were suspicions that Hartson might have been offside but despite Pars players chasing Assistant Willie Dishington back up the touchline there was no way that the decision was going to be changed.

The second goal was probably enough to kill the Pars off but four minutes later a third certainly did. Sutton passed wide to WALLACE. He turned Labonte twice before striking from about twelve yards out sending the ball at an acute angle low into the net.

VARGA scored the fourth after Wallace again tormented Labonte and sent in a ball that had two Celtic shirts competing to score from six yards. Celtic were not finished either. Balde and Petrov were taken off and Sylla and Mjallby came on. This just created even more enthusiasm for attack.

Agathe`s ball into the path of Sylla was blocked by Skerla but the ball was back in the net in the 87th minute. A move from Agathe through Sutton sent LARSSON deep into the box on the left and he picked out the net just inside the right goalpost from the byeline at a ridiculous angle.

It had been a gallant attempt by the Fifers. Every club in Europe knows how difficult Celtic are at home and there was no change for the Pars today. Billy Mehmet came very close to a historic strike and in a team that contained Celtic for a lengthy time Scott Wilson was a standout.