Football: Burley puts priority on European campaign

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The Independent Online
CRAIG BURLEY, the toast of Scotland last season, slipped straight into top gear with a hat-trick in Celtic's first League game of the season, but said Europe should take precedence in the short-term.

The Scotland midfielder's first treble was augmented by goals from Simon Donnelly and Malky Mackay as Dunfermline were brushed aside 5-0 in front of more than 59,000 fans at Parkhead on Saturday to give Celtic's new coach, Jozef Venglos, the start he would have wanted.

But Burley warned against subjecting all the first team to Celtic's next two games. Before taking on Croatia Zagreb in a Champions' League qualifying tie, Celtic play friendly matches against Liverpool and Bolton. "It isn't ideal to be playing friendlies before a European game but hopefully we will share out the load," he said. "Saving our legs for Europe is the most important thing at this stage because I am sure playing Liverpool in a friendly will probably be a stiffer test than we had today."

Kilmarnock, also involved in European competition, shrugged off a bright start by Dundee United, in which Roger Boli twice had goals disallowed, and ran out 2-0 winners, with an opportunist goal by Paul Wright and a fine chip by Pat Nevin.

Aberdeen disposed of the challenge posed by promoted Dundee, winning 2-0 at Dens Park, but Craig Hignett, the star of the show on his debut, said the Dons are some way from the kind of side their manager, Alex Miller, will want to fashion.

A fluent, promising display turned on a few minutes midway through the first half when Eoin Jess and Hignett scored. Hignett said: "We have quality throughout the team, but we just need a bit more consistency - there is a long way to go."

Motherwell had one of their many debutants, Jered Stirling, to thank for a 1-0 win over St Johnstone. They were helped by the dismissal of St Johnstone's Paul Kane on the half-hour after a clash with Jan Michels.

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