Football: Moravcik sparks Celtic comeback

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The Independent Online
Celtic 4

Blinker 47, Viduka 50 Moravcik 61, Burchill 89

Dundee United 1

Ferraz 26

Half-time: 0-1 Attendance: 59,120

GLASGOW'S SHOPS were not the only part of town to wilt under a siege yesterday. Out at Parkhead, Dundee United were trampled underfoot by a Celtic team with their mind on 27 December and the arrival of Rangers, rather than Santa Claus.

One-way traffic in the second half saw United's precious lead overwhelmed with three goals in 16 minutes and, when the substitute Mark Burchill steered a rebound past the visiting goalkeeper Alan Combe in the 89th minute, it wrapped up a perfect day for almost 60,000 fans.

The impish Lubomir Moravcik was involved in all of Celtic's menace in the opening 20 minutes. Jackie McNamara lofted a shot over the bar after Moravcik had supplied him. When McNamara returned the compliment, the Slovakian shook off his marker with impressive ease but curled his shot inches wide of Combe's far post.

Combe then displayed great alertness in the 20th minute to narrow the angle and block Mark Viduka's shot after Moravcik had unpicked Dundee United again. The value of that resistance unfolded seven minutes later when United went ahead with their first attack. Joaquim Ferraz was given too much room in the box and the tall Portuguese striker met Craig Easton's cross to send a looping header over Jonathan Gould's grasp.

Yet Celtic had the opportunity to restore parity three minutes later. Viduka cleverly held off Jason de Vos in the box, but the defender was lured into a trip. However, the Australian striker was denied when his penalty struck the inside of the post and stayed out. The frustration increased when Moravcik's stunning free-kick crashed off the bar before half-time.

However, those anxieties were dispelled as Celtic turned the game on its head with three goals inside the opening 16 minutes of the second half.

It took only 60 seconds for John Barnes' team to prove that the interval had refuelled their resolve as Regi Blinker applied the finishing touch to a quite extraordinary move. Five players were involved as Celtic built the move from their own box, from Alan Stubbs to Eyal Berkovic, whose pass was dummied by Blinker, allowing Moravcik to guide a return into the capricious Dutchman's path. Blinker showed great poise before clipping the ball over Combe's dive.

Celtic moved ahead in the 50th minute as Viduka atoned for his penalty miss. McNamara's fine cross to the back of the box was knocked back in by Moravcik and the Australian showed exemplary bravery to dive in among the thrashing boots and steer a header inside the post.

Parkhead was transformed from gloom to ecstasy, and the metamorphosis continued when Moravcik stretched the lead further in the 61st minute. Berkovic fed Viduka on the edge of the box and the striker ignored the Israeli's screams for a return, holding the ball up until spotting Moravcik's well-timed run into the box. The low ball was rifled in emphatically by the talismanic Slovakian.