Football: Celtic claim season's first trophy thanks to Danish grit

Celtic 3 Dundee United 0
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The Independent Online
So far, so good for Wim Jansen. A matter of months since he took over the role of head coach at Celtic, the enigmatic Dutchman has presided over victory in the first tournament of the season and, while the Coca- Cola Cup no longer carries with it automatic entry into Europe, the celebrations were lavish from the Celtic supporters, who saw their club's first trophy lifted since the 1995 Scottish Cup.

A 15-year wait was ended in this particular competition with a convincing win for Celtic against the side they had beaten 4-0 in the league the previous week. However, Celtic's Marc Rieper, who vied with his fellow Dane Morten Wieghorst as Celtic's most influential player, formed a solid barrier alongside Alan Stubbs and Tom Boyd against the pace of Robbie Winters and Kjell Olafsson. It was Rieper who sent Celtic on their way to victory with the first goal in the 20th minute.

Wieghorst threaded the ball to Andreas Thom on the right wing and the German's cross was met by Rieper, who glanced a header past Sieb Dykstra via a post. Within three minutes Celtic added a second goal to give themselves breathing space. Henrik Larsson collected a loose ball and, as he shot from 20 yards, his effort caught a deflection off Maurice Malpas to lift the ball over the head of Dykstra and into the net.

Celtic until that point had fared slightly better than their opponents in terms of possession, but United then took some heart from a couple of efforts by Olafsson which slipped wide of goal. Their immediate response on the restart saw Olafsson again go close, from a free-kick, as United attempted to get back into the game.

They were to fall further behind to a well-constructed third Celtic goal. Larsson found Regi Blinker on the edge of the area, he evaded a couple of defenders before crossing for Craig Burley to score with a close-range header.

From then it became party time for the Celtic supporters, who have suffered cup defeats by Raith Rovers and Falkirk at Ibrox in the recent past. The fans' celebrations emanated from the exorcising of ghosts as much as the events of the day. Thom should have added a fourth goal in the 79th minute after being played through but, with Dykstra in his sights, he shot narrowly wide.

Overall, the performance from Celtic was one which deserved its reward, although United can and have played better on this Ibrox pitch. The disappointment for them and for their manager, Tommy McLean, will come from the fact that they never at any time imposed themselves on the match and were bettered in the midfield department by a Celtic side who proved more hungry for victory.

For Jansen a first trophy in the cabinet will come as a welcome diversion, but the hard part has still to come. Those Celtic supporters who left singing into the night will spend little time to bask in the glory of this triumph before returning to the ultimate object of their desire: the league title.

Winning that will be a touch more tricky, as it will require their side to get the better of Rangers, who have held sway in the domestic game for a decade. Even in victory, the supporters and even the coach are well aware that a striker remains the priority, with Harald Brattbak of Rosenborg Trondheim the preferred choice - although his club's success in the Champions' League might delay his arrival.

Goals: Rieper (1-0) 20; Larsson (2-0) 23; Burley (3-0) 58.

Celtic (3-4-3): Gould; Rieper, Stubbs, Boyd; McNamara (Annoni, 89), Burley, Wieghorst, Mahe; Thom (Donnelly, 80), Larsson, Blinker (Lambert, 87).

Dundee United (4-4-2): Dykstra; Skoldmark (McSwegan, 56), Pressley, Malpas, Perry; Easton, Zetterlund, Bowman, Pedersen; Winters, Olafsson. Substitutes not used: Dolan, Andersson.

Referee: J McCluskey (Stewarton).

Bookings: Dundee United: Skoldmark, Easton, McSwegan.

Man of the match: Wieghorst.

Attendance: 49,305.

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