SPL v Celtic
CELTIC 3 DUNFERMLINE 0 Date: 25/09/04
Fixture: BOS SPL Premier League
Attendance: 58213 Kick Off: 15:00
Referee: Alan Freeland Weather: Fine 16C
With four wins in the previous 22 Premier League visits to Celtic Park there were no great expectations of Davie Hay`s teams chances. From the kick-off Celtic dominated and goals from Stanislav Varga and two from Henri Camara gave the league leaders a comfortable victory ahead of their Champions League visit to the San Siro.
Dunfermline made one change from the team that defeated Partick Thistle in the CIS Cup in midweek; Gary Mason returning in place of Thomas Butler while Celtic fielded a very strong side despite injury keeping Jackie McNamara, Didier Agathe and Chris Sutton out of the game. The league champions kicked off playing west to east and within 60 seconds Derek Stillie was called into making a good smothering save after Varga`s through ball to Hartson allowed the Welshman to get the better of Scott Wilson and send a dangerous ball into the visitors` six yard box.
The opening play was totally dominated by Celtic with Petrov coming close in the fourth minute, sending the ball narrowly wide of the left goalpost after receiving a fine delivery from Alan Thompson. Next minute, Juninho went on a good individual run and despite the close tracking of Gary Mason he managed a shot from 30 yards out that also went wide to the left of target. The tenth minute saw a Thompson cross that was headed behind for a corner and then Derek Stillie make a good punching save as the Pars soaked up more pressure.
Andrius Skerla`s tackle on Hartson conceded a corner on the right and Gary Mason`s headed clearance was his last involvement as he was then replaced by Aaron Labonte with only 15 minutes gone. Gary, who was suffering from a knee injury in midweek, was forced out of the match with a back spasm.
In the 16th minute a Barry Nicholson cross was headed behind for Dunfermline`s first corner of the match. Gary Dempsey`s delivery was headed out only as far as Darren Young, but his right-footed shot from 20 yards was unfortunately well wide of the left goalpost. Four minutes later what seemed to be inevitable happened. A Celtic corner sent over by Thompson from the right was met by the head of Momo Sylla who deflected the ball to the far post where VARGA directed the ball into the Pars net.
Dunfermline tried to respond immediately, Dempsey`s free kick taking play into the Celtic penalty area from where it was returned to him but his swish went widely to the right side of the box and Marshall came out to clutch. There was a further fright for the Pars when Camara got the better of Skerla and his shot came off Labonte as Stillie made the save. Juninho had an effort over the crossbar after a headed clearance from the Pars keeper had dropped to Thompson and his square ball to the Brazilian encouraged a quick snapshot.
Despite Celtic`s superior possession and territorial advantage, the Fifers continued to cause problems for the home defence. Brewster fed a ball from Dempsey to Young and his shot cannoned out right for a throw in on the right. Then from the same area of the park, Shields took the ball to the corner flag before crossing perfectly for the awaiting Brewster, but his right footed volley from 10 yards out went wide to the right of goal. The Celtic crowd were unusually quiet and failed to be woken from their slumber when only three minutes later, another good pass from Varga put Camara in for a shot from 16 yards which looked likely to increase the lead, but the Frenchman`s shot went wide to the left of Stillie`s goal.
Stillie produced another good save when Sylla set up Camara for yet another crack at goal on the angle of the six yard box. This resulted in a Celtic corner down on the right that Thompson shot across the box for Juninho to chase after and collect. As he ran into Darren Young, Celtic were awarded a fairly soft free kick and from that wide on the left Celtic produced their second goal. Thompson executed the 20th minute delivery that CAMARA headed at Stillie and then headed in the rebound. The Dunfermline defenders were all questioning each other and were particularly disappointed as they lost a second goal from a set piece.
When Labonte failed to cut out a pass to Petrov, Camara looked set to add another but the Pars survived. Sylla toyed with Thomson on the right wing before sending in a ball that almost sneaked in at the far post, but required Hartson to return the ball onto the crossbar before the defence booted away the danger. As half time beckoned, a Nicholson free kick was headed behind for Dunfermline`s second corner of the game, but Scott Wilson`s header from that went over the crossbar.
Noel Hunt came on for Darren Young at the restart and Davie Hay went with three men up front and three in midfield. Initially, however, it was still one-way traffic towards Stillie`s goal. 70 seconds into the second half, Thompson received a square ball from Petrov to fire in a warning drive. In the 53rd minute, Petrov drew Stillie out of his goals on the right side of the box and the Pars looked like losing another goal until the defence intercepted the Bulgarian`s pass into the six yard box.
Next minute, Celtic earned another corner on the left and it looked wasted by Thompson as they played it short, but he broke back into the left side of the penalty area to send in a ball that created one almighty scramble in the six yard box. The ball appeared to be played off the crossbar as numerous players lunged at it. CAMARA accepted the rebound seven yards out and drove through a forest of legs to bury the ball in the bottom right of the Dunfermline goal.
Play continued towards Stillie and he had to make a one-footed save as Juninho made one of his characteristic runs through on goal. The Pars were certainly heading for defeat, but they did not give up. In the 59th minute a Scott Thomson free kick picked out Dempsey and his touch to Nicholson allowed a cross that Hunt put over the bar from 15 yards. Four minutes later, Brewster had another very good chance after a Thomson ball to Hunt was played nicely to him at the top of the Celtic penalty box. The veteran striker turned Valgaeren to execute a right footed shot that Marshall saved with style.
Nicholson had a shot over the bar and Hunt had a shot deflected for a corner. Dunfermline kept Celtic pinned back with a couple of corners in quick succession but eventually Marshall held one of them to end any threat to the scoreline. Stillie was called upon to save from Sylla as a one-two with Hartson played him into a good opportunity and Scott Wilson was forced to head off the line. It was obvious at this point that a knee injury to Noel Hunt was going to force him to be substituted, however play continued with a free kick on the edge of the Pars penalty box. A five man defensive wall was formed but when Thompson struck, Juninho moved out the wall to force another great save from Stillie.
Butler came on for Hunt but still Celtic maintained their continual pressure on the Pars defence. Celtic brought on McGeady and Laursen, withdrawing Juninho and Hartson and together with the earlier substitute Ross Wallace, the youngsters went all out to impress Martin O`Neill. As the Celtic fans streamed out of the stands like snow of a dyke, Stillie pulled off yet another fantastic save when a superb ball from Thompson put Wallace in for what could have been a fourth Celtic goal. The match finished with Camara and Wallace both hitting the right post as Celtic teased Dunfermline. The final whistle was a relief.
Derek Stillie was the hero of the day. Dunfermline may have strips that look like AC Milan`s but the Hoops are unlikely to find it as easy when they meet the real thing in midweek.