SPL v Celtic
DUNFERMLINE 1 CELTIC 4 Date: 11/02/04
Fixture: BOS SPL Premier League
Attendance: 11201, Kick Off: 19:45
Referee: John Underhill, Weather: Dry, Fine 5C
The Pars largest home crowd of the season turned out to see Celtic’s winning run extend to 22 SPL matches. The fans, in a show of support for their club, bought up all the 50:50 tickets to generate badly needed income for the troubled club but little could be done to stop the deficit that Celtic worked up against Dunfermline. It was the same Athletic eleven as snowed off at Broadwood on Saturday that kicked off against the Champions-elect.
Celtic were kept on the back foot with Barry Nicholson following up his free kick with a return ball to Noel Hunt via Darren Young but Noel’s header was just wide to the left of goal. The momentum was kept up with a Darren Young corner that Tod just about converted and then a Greg Shields dash up the right wing was dummied by Crawford for Hunt but again the Celtic defence came out on top.
It was the 14th minute before the league leaders threatened any danger on Stillie’s goal. A long throw from the right from Chris Sutton dropped back off Andrius Skerla’s head to Henrik Larsson but his low shot was wide to the left of goal. The visitors followed that up with a Stephen Pearson header at the far post from an Alan Thompson free kick from the right.
Sutton found himself back in the back four when young John Kennedy went off with a cut above his eye and while Celtic were down to ten men the Pars pushed up to try and capitalise. Darren Young and Nicholson worked the ball up the right for Crawford to return to Nicholson but Rab Douglas was quickly out to save at the feet of the Pars midfielder.
Continued attack came from Crawford off whom the ball broke wide right to Shields. He supplied Nicholson with a ball to cross into the penalty area and Noel HUNT rose to head into the far corner of the net as Douglas remained rooted to his line. Twenty minutes gone; 1-0 to the Pars.
Two minutes later Thomson and Crawford made progress up the left for Nipper to beat off the challenges of both Petrov and Agathe to send in a good cross that Douglas took diving forward. Such attacking play merely roused the Glasgow side into action. Only three minutes after going ahead the Pars lead vanished as a Henrik LARSSON header at the near post deflected in a Alan Thompson corner from the right. Despite the height DA had in defence Larsson’s timing was perfect and Stillie had no chance.
Ninety seconds later Celtic scored goal number two to send their supporters delirious. Scott Wilson was yellow carded for a challenge in the centre circle after Scott Thomson conceded a free kick for a tackle on Stilian Petrov in front of the Pars fans in the North West stand. Alan Thompson flashed in the free kick and Stanislav VARGA lept in at the right side of the six yard box to head Celtic into the lead.
The Pars only reply came in the 31st minute when,after lots of possession,Andy Tod lifted a good ball into the penalty area for Derek Young but he was back to goal and Celtic prevented him turning to get in the shot. The stand side linesman controversially awarded the home side a free kick from which Nicholson picked out the head of Scott Wilson but Celtic substitute Joos Valgaeren headed clear. Three minutes later in the 34th minute, yet another Nicholson free kick picked out Tod for a header that Petrov cleared.
Five minutes from the interval, Wilson sent Thomson up the left wing where he fed Derek Young the ball for a looping cross into the Celtic penalty area that Douglas dived out to deny Crawford. Celtic continued to look dangerous every time they went up the field and Andrius Skerla made an excellent challenge preventing Larsson from notching another goal from a Sutton cross.
Goal No. 3 however was only a minute away when Henrik LARSSON headed in from Celtic’s fifth corner of the match, which was again expertly delivered from the left foot of Alan Thompson. The interval lead could have been greater had Stillie not saved at the feet of Sutton, following a good penetrating pass into the Pars penalty area and had Stephen Pearson not seen his well-struck drive blocked by a defender. Sutton had the final chance of the first half with a shot across the face of goal which fortunately went unmet.
After only two minutes of the second half, Derek Young put over a ball for Hunt at the front of the six yard box, he flicked it over Valgaeren but Douglas easly collected. Neil Lennon launched a high ball into the D at the top of the Pars penalty area, Sutton headed on but Stillie was out quickly to grasp the ball before Larsson could claim his hat-trick.
Celtic allowed Dunfermline to take the game to them and several decisions went against the home side when it looked as though throw-ins and corner kicks might have come their way. Tod headed down a Nicholson cross for Crawford in the 64th minute, but the Pars’ top scorer was well wide from the edge of the box.
At the other end, Derek Stillie was tested with a low Alan Thompson drive from a free kick 30 yards out, given after Tod had held on to Sutton. Two minutes later, however, a free kick slightly nearer awarded for Thomson’s challenge on Petrov resulted in a fourth Celtic goal. Alan THOMPSON struck a shot that deflected off Nicholson on the left side of the four man wall and found the net at the far post, again giving Stillie no chance. With 68 minutes gone, Celtic had well and truly knocked the stuffing out of the Pars and there was really no way back.
The best efforts to reduce this goal deficit came in the 79th minute when a Hunt cross from the right was laced back from Dempsey to Crawford, but Douglas turned the ball on to the crossbar and out for a corner. The Scotland keeper then held a Hunt cross and a Nicholson chip that was dropping under his crossbar as substitute Billy Mehmet ran in. There were a few more tasks for the Pars defence after Celtic substitutes Paul Lambert and Shaun Maloney tried to get in on the scoring act.
Martin O’Neill had nothing good to say about the experimental Pars pitch, but when his players managed to produce goals by keeping the ball in the air, it doesn’t really matter. The Dunfermline players showed great determination and were deservedly ahead until Celtic’s undoubted quality was demonstrated with excellent finishing from set pieces. That was the Pars weakness and they were duly punished.