MARK BURCHILL may not yet be the Scottish Michael Owen, but the Celtic forward is likely to get his chance to prove is he can follow that precocious lead.
Burchill, prolific when coming off the bench, handed Celtic a valuable win with a 72nd-minute goal on one of his few starts at Rugby Park last night. The watching Craig Brown is now likely to offer 18-year-old a chance to do likewise for Scotland next month in the Euro 2000 qualifiers.
The appearance of Burchill was the biggest talking point as the game began, either forced upon John Barnes because of an injury to Mark Viduka or because the Celtic coach was listening to Brown's plea that he needed him to feature in more games for his club before giving the Scotland Under- 21 cap a call-up for next month's crucial game with Bosnia.
Whatever the reason, Burchill had a wonderful chance after just four minutes to impress the Scotland manager, escaping from Kevin McGowne with his obvious pace and racing in on the net guarded by Colin Meldrum. However, the Kilmarnock goalkeeper stood his ground and turned the shot wide for a corner.
Had Olivier Tebily any more poise, then he would not have squandered first a header and then a hook shot from two accurate corners by Lubomir Moravcik midway through the half.
On the half hour, Burchill got another glimpse of goal, courtesy of an exquisitely cushioned pass from Larsson's thigh, but his touch let him down and allowed McGowne to divert his shot for a corner.
From there, Moravcik this time picked out Johan Mjallby and the giant Swede's header seemed destined to creep in, but Gus McPherson's vigilance on the post allowed him to swipe the ball clear.
Celtic were lucky not to be a goal down after 49 minutes when McPherson's clever pass beat the visitors' offside trap to release Paul Wright. Fortune, though, did not favour the Kilmarnock striker, who clipped the ball over Gould but saw it strike the bar before McNamara headed it clear.
The temperature and the tempo were both stepped up and it was little surprise that Paul Lambert, who had a feud with Martin Baker, was eventually booked in the 60th minute.
However, the substitution of Bobby Petta for the tiring Moravcik in the 65th minute proved to be the catalyst for Celtic to break the deadlock.
The Dutchman set up Burchill seven minutes later with a delightful pass, and the teenager accepted the invitation, driving in a low shot from a tight angle which beat Meldrum.
Kilmarnock (4-4-2): Meldrum; McPherson, McGowne, Lauchlan, Baker; Bagen (Davidson, 71), Durrant (Burke, 81), Holt, Mitchell; Wright, Jeffrey (McCoist, 81). Substitutes not used: Watt, Hessey.
Celtic (4-2-2-2): Gould; McNamara, Stubbs (Petrov, 76), Tebily, Riseth; Lambert, Mjallby; Burley, Moravcik (Petta, 66); Larsson, Burchill. Substitutes not used: Kharin (gk), Wieghorst, Brattbakk.
Referee: K Clark (Paisley).Reuse content