Football: O'Donnell delivers as Celtic press on

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The Independent Online
Celtic 2

Larsson 40, O'Donnell 47

Motherwell 0

Attendance: 54,227

AFTER LAST week's devastating performance against Rangers, Celtic produced a rather more sedate show at Parkhead yesterday, yet still had the beating of an overawed Motherwell.

Following on from the 5-1 trouncing of their Glasgow rivals, Celtic were never quite able to sustain any momentum in a match where their best efforts were often frustrated. In part, that was due to some stubborn Motherwell defending but, in truth, too many passes went astray and it needed an error from the Motherwell goalkeeper, Mikko Kaven, to kick-start the victory.

Kaven handed Henrik Larsson the opener in the 40th minute with a near- post blunder, and the Swedish forward went on to create the second for Phil O'Donnell to score within two minutes of the restart.

Only at 2-0 did Motherwell push forward with any rhythm, but they could not deny the champions their first back-to-back League victory since February and their fourth consecutive home success. It means they are now only four points behind Rangers, albeit having played a game more than the Ibrox side, who face St Johnstone in today's Scottish League Cup final.

Lubomir Moravcik was again preferred up front ahead of Mark Burchill, who came on as a late substitute, while the on-loan Liverpool goalkeeper Tony Warner kept his place with Jonathan Gould still injured.

Celtic almost moved ahead after two minutes when Simon Donnelly and Larsson exchanged passes, but Kaven saved well from the Scotland international. Kaven was alert to deny O'Donnell a shot on goal after Moravcik's through ball, while Vidar Riseth disappointed in Celtic's next attack, mis-kicking an inviting Alan Stubbs cross at the back post.

Celtic were frustrated at their failure to break the deadlock and any fluency was disrupted by fierce Motherwell tackling. Moravcik conspired to miss an open goal after 34 minutes when his clipped shot beat Kaven only to hit a post

Then Celtic went ahead when Moravcik's flicked header released Larsson who defeated Kaven at his near post, the shot squeezing under the Finn's body.

Celtic doubled their advantage in the 47th minute when Larsson surged forward after collecting the ball inside his own half. He fed O'Donnell's well-timed run and the winger slotted the ball home.

A slight injury to Stubbs gave an opportunity to the substitute Enrico Annoni and he almost made it 3-0 with an angled drive that went just the wrong side of the post.

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