Football: Larsson's last laugh

Celtic 2 Burley 74, Larsson 78 Dundee United 1 Dodds 25 Half-time: 0-1 Attendance: 59,902
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The Independent Online
IF CELTIC defy logic and retain their title, this will be the day they look back on. Two goals inside three minutes, from Craig Burley and Henrik Larsson, sealed a comeback which keeps the Scottish champions clinging onto Rangers' coat tails.

Celtic's pursuit of flair, as much as of Rangers, saw their coach, Jozef Venglos, underpin the team that scored seven last Sunday at Motherwell by putting the enigmatic Mark Viduka, who had not played since his bizarre transfer three months ago, on the bench.

Dundee United committed their organised defence to stifling Larsson and the Swede saw little of the ball. Indeed, it was Dundee United who came closest to making the breakthrough when Craig Easton curled a shot beyond the Celtic goalkeeper, Jonathan Gould, but saw it crash off the crossbar.

Although Craig Burley returned to the Celtic midfield after an absence of four months with a groin injury, the skills of the injured Lubomir Moravcik were being sadly missed and while Parkhead was mulling over its muted team, Dundee United went ahead in the 25th minute. Billy Dodds scored, but the real author of the goal was Gould, who dropped Jim Paterson's innocuous cross, allowing Dodds to stab the ball in before Celtic's defenders could react.

Larsson appeared poised to equalise six minutes before the interval only for Neil Duffy to block the shot. United should have doubled their advantage in the 48th minute, when Kjell Olofsson pounced on Vidar Riseth's error and rounded Gould with the ball, but elected to dive, a foolish decision as the referee, Mike McCurry, waved away the striker's appeals.

With Celtic's search for an equaliser ever more frenetic Viduka replaced Harald Brattbakk in the 58th minute. The robust Australian was given little opportunity to prove himself but eventually Celtic's pressure breached the United defence when Burley equalised with 16 minutes left. The Scotland midfielder got in behind his marker to meet Blinker's clever pass and drove a low right-foot shot underneath the body of goalkeeper Sieb Dijkstra.

After Celtic had struggled for so long for parity, Larsson scored a 78th-minute winner, spinning in the box to thrash in a right-foot shot after Burley had forced the ball through, for his 32nd, and maybe most valuable, goal of the season.