Celtic coast home with Larsson's 30th goal

FBK Kaunas 0 Celtic 4
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The Independent Football

It took Henrik Larsson 13 minutes of the new campaign to hit his 30th European goal for Celtic and put the Uefa Cup finalists on course for the final qualifying round of the Champions' League. That strike equalled the British record for a single club in Europe, held by the former Liverpool striker Ian Rush and the Leeds legend Peter Lorimer.

Chris Sutton and Shaun Maloney also opened their season accounts, and Liam Miller added another goal three minutes from time to make Celtic's passage through the second qualifying round virtually certain. In the final qualifier they would meet the winners of the MTK Hungaria-HJK Helsinki tie.

The Celtic manager, Martin O'Neill, had been anxious about coming here before the start of the Scottish domestic season especially as their opponents had vowed to pull off a surprise victory in memory of their striker Audrius Slekys, who was killed in a car crash on Sunday night. But he need not have worried as his players showed a great attitude in sweeping their opponents aside in the St Dariaus and Giremo Stadium.

The goalkeeper Robert Douglas, whose position as Celtic's No 1 was the subject of much debate prior to kick-off, hardly had a save to make. He started the new season as first-choice as O'Neill picked the Uefa Cup final side except for Stanislav Varga, who came in for the suspended Bobo Balde.

After a 10-second silence in memory of Slekys, the visitors, in their new black away shirts, exerted immediate pressure. After 13 minutes, the home defence made a mess of Alan Thompson's corner and Larsson showed he is as sharp as ever by sweeping the ball home.

Sutton then doubled the Scottish side's lead in the 29th minute after he capitalised on a mistake - not the first of the game - by the FBK Kaunas goalkeeper Gytis Padimanskas to stroke the ball home from close range.

Celtic seemed to relax after half-time, but extended their lead from a fluent passing move which Maloney finished off neatly. Celtic could afford to take Larsson off for the last 12 minutes and go down to 10 men - and there was also time for Miller to score his first competitive goal for Celtic after converting Maloney's cross from close range.

FBK Kaunas: Padimanskas; Gvildys, Kancelskis, Petrenka, Regelskis, Papeckys, Gedgaudas, Sirmelis, Zelmikas, Beniusis,Barevicius. Substitutes: Stonys, Sanajevas, Pastva, Opic, Puotkalis,Kunevicius, Karalius.

Celtic: Douglas; Agathe, Valgaeren, Mjallby, Varga, Petrov, Lennon (Maloney, h-t), Lambert, Thompson (Smith, 70), Larsson, Sutton (Miller, 70). Substitutes not used: Hedman (gk), Sylla, McNamara, Crainey.

Referee: G Dasonova (Portugal).

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