Football: Blinker the clincher

Dunfermline Athletic 0 Celtic 2 Blinker 67, Larsson 86 Attenda nce: 12,627
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The Independent Online
Celtic gave themselves the platform they needed to take into next Saturday's crucial game with Rangers, by squeezing past Dunfermline to maintain their Premier League ascendancy. Goals from Regi Blinker and Henrik Larsson were enough to keep Wim Jansen's team a point ahead of their great rivals before the Ibrox summit meeting.

Despite yesterday's success, the Parkhead club remain lightweight up front, as the two Uefa Cup games with Liverpool proved, and Jansen must locate a prolific goalscorer if his side's challenge is to be maintained.

Celtic turned in a ragged performance for more than an hour and indeed could have been a goal down to Dunfermline's aerial battering, but the home side's striker Andy Smith squandered chances with the same profligacy as his opponents.

Larsson and Simon Donnelly both wasted great opportunities before Blinker finally put Celtic ahead in the 67th minute, and even then the goal owed more to luck than skill. The former Sheffield Wednesday winger was set up for a shooting opportunity by the impressive Jackie McNamara and although Blinker got enough power into his shot, it was the unfortunate intervention of the Dunfermline full-back Greg Shields that proved crucial. The ball took a wicked deflection off Shields' boot and spun freakishly over the stranded goalkeeper, Ian Westwater, and into the roof of the net.

Even then, Celtic simply could not kill off Dunfermline and were forced to endure heavy pressure before they finally wrapped up the crucial three points. Four minutes from time, McNamara created their second goal, winning the ball and setting up Larsson. He rode three tackles and evaded the desperate lunge of Dunfermline's central defender Dave Barnett before coolly placing his shot past the helpless Westwater.

If only Celtic possessed someone in the class of Marco Negri, who is wreaking such havoc for Rangers, then they might be further ahead in this championship race. Celtic will hope the Italian, for once, has an off day next week.

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