Football: Burchill shows his elders the way forward

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The Independent Online
Celtic 2

Burley 80, Burchill 83

Dundee United 1

Winters 31

Attendance: 59,738

MARK BURCHILL showed his better-paid elders just what playing for the jersey really means, as the teenage striker silenced the growing mutiny that was shrouding Celtic's players.

The boy who only turned 18 last week earns a fraction of what Celtic's collection of stars are seeking in bonuses from club chairman, Fergus McCann, in a rumbling dispute which has taken its toll on the club.

Since the split emerged, on the eve of the Champions League tie with Croatia Zagreb 10 days ago, Jozef Venglos's side have lost at Aberdeen in the league and were then removed from the League Cup, the trophy they held, by Airdrie.

Three defeats in a row would have been unnacceptable for the 59,738 fans inside Parkhead, never mind for the players' PR. Crowds tolerate players' wage claims when they are winning, but defeat brings only opprobrium.

A goal from Dundee United striker Robbie Winters in the 30th minute brought the scorn pouring down from the huge stands on the home players and it seemed enough to give the visitors their first league win.

Then, Burchill entered. He replaced the misfit Norwegian Harald Brattbakk, for whom Celtic's pounds 2.2m investment now looks like an expensive blunder, in the 65th minute. Then the youngster set about repairing the damage of the loadsamoney regulars.

The teenager forced a wonderful save out of United keeper Sieb Dijkstra in the 79th minute as Celtic suddenly found renewed vigour to chase the game.

Just 60 seconds later, Burchill was involved in the move which brough Craig Burley's pivotal equaliser. Burchill held up the ball before allowing Henrik Larsson to chip a clever pass over the top of the Dundee United defenders for the irresistable Burley to ghost in and stab his shot past Dijkstra.

Five minutes later, Burchill grabbed the stage for himself. Simon Donnelly was the creator, with a splendid reverse pass through the massed United ranks on the edge of the box, and Burchill did the rest with that youthful coolness so evident in Michael Owen, driving a low right-foot shot past the keeper for an incredible and unforseen climax.

A Celtic success had looked very unlikely, particularly after Brattbakk's glaring miss after only three minutes.

Kjell Olofsson, the United striker, looked far more potent and, after two efforts of his own were repelled, the Swede beat Marc Rieper for pace and crossed for Winters to easily beat Gould with his shot. The parting shot, however, belonged to Burchill.

Foreign exchange, p6