Celtic 1 Dunfermline 0: McManus wrestles Pars to submission

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The Independent Online

After the drama at the Theatre of Dreams, this was a flat production that will be filed under "instantly forgettable" but Gordon Strachan cared little for that as Celtic kept possession of the leadership of the Scottish Premier League ahead of the first Old Firm encounter of the season.

Stephen McManus's 31st-minute header ensured there was no hangover for Strachan's team and now the Celtic manager awaits his new duel with Paul Le Guen, who brings Rangers to Parkhead next Saturday already trailing his rival.

"Considering all the effort we put in at Manchester United, we played well in the first half," said Strachan. "Indeed, I've got so many players with ice on bruises that it's like the Titanic in our dressing room."

After the midweek strain Strachan opted to freshen up his team and introduced the attacking threat of Kenny Miller and Shaun Maloney, while Paul Telfer replaced Mark Wilson after the right-back sustained a broken foot from Mikaël Silvestre's crude tackle.

Celtic's other full-back, Lee Naylor, almost provided an early goal with a dipping 25-yard shot that was pushed wide by the Dunfermline goalkeeper Dorus De Vries. Thereafter, it became the Shunsuke Namakura show.

He delivered a succession of corners and crosses for Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, two of which were deflected over the bar and the other saved by De Vries, who then excelled by beating out a raking shot from Thomas Gravesen.

The Pars' own threat was limited but Artur Boruc pushed a fine shot from Darren Young wide and Jim Hamilton's header crept past too. However, Celtic, after so much finely crafted football had failed to break down Dunfermline's well-organised resistance, found the key with a routine set-piece.

Yet another Namakura corner was met by McManus's run to the near post and the Celtic defender powered his second headed goal of the season into the net. De Vries could do little about that but he denied Miller's subsequent header before the post came to his rescue as Gravesen thrashed a shot against it eight minutes before the interval.

However, Celtic's second-half performance was a remarkable contrast as tiredness, both mental and physical, set in. Miller, though, set up Neil Lennon just after the hour with a clever cutback but the Celtic captain's rising shot flew narrowly over. McManus almost collected his second but his header from Nakamura's cross found the side netting and Miller then angled a header just over.

Lennon, who has scored two of his meagre total of three Celtic goals against Dunfermline, almost struck again in the dying minutes but saw his looping header land on the roof of the net. "We had so much of the ball that it worked against us," noted Strachan later. "We became one- dimensional in the second half and the crowd went flat. But I will take three points every time."

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