Celtic lifted by Larsson's skill

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The Independent Online

Henrik Larsson came to Celtic's rescue at East End Park last night to maintain their perfect record and send his team back to the top of the Scottish Premier League.

Henrik Larsson came to Celtic's rescue at East End Park last night to maintain their perfect record and send his team back to the top of the Scottish Premier League.

The 100 per cent success rate of Martin O'Neill's side seemed destined to be ended by a battling Dunfermline side until Larsson struck with five minutes left, engineering an opening for Alan Thompson and then taking the new signing's return ball to beat theoffside trap and waltz round goalkeeper Marco Ruitenbeek.

The debt to Larsson was obvious. It was his penalty that drew Celtic level after Steve Crawford spot-kick had threatened to halt O'Neill's bandwagon and maintain Dunfermline's unbeaten record at East End Park since returning to the top flight.

The visitors came close in the ninth minute to taking the lead when Thompson played a quick-free kick to Chris Sutton, who held the ball up well for the former Aston Villa midfielder to retrieve it and send in a searing left-foot shot which Ruitenbeek, the Dunfermline goalkeeper, beat on to the near post.

Paul Lambert's hope of emulating his spectacular goal against Rangers were dashed in the 18th minute when he romped on to Chris Sutton's knock-down, but pulled his effort wide of the target.

That miss seemed to inject greater optimism into Dunfermline and they laid siege to Celtic's area for much of the remainder of the half, without ever carving out a clear sight of goal. The pace of Junior Mendes on the right, in particular, posed Celtic problems.

After 58 minutes Celtic paid the price for a glaring miss by Jackie McNamara when Dunfermline grabbed the lead from a hotly contested penalty. Sutton rose with Dunfermline's Andruis Skerla to try and clear Ian Ferguson's corner but was adjudged to have handled the ball.

Steve Crawford ignored the row - which saw Sutton and Jonathan Gould booked - before drilling his low penalty past the Celtic keeper.

However, the home team could only hold on to that lead for two minutes before Celtic equalised with a penalty of their own. Paul Lambert's drive into the box was halted by Ferguson's trip, though that looked to have been outside the area, and Larsson coolly sent Ruitenbeek the wrong way.

That set up a pulsating finish which allowed the Swede to add his own final word.

Dunfermline Athletic (3-5-2): Ruitenbeek; Skinner, Skerla, S Thomson; Mendes (Dair, 70), Ferguson, Nicholson, Matthaei (Boyle, 86), Doesburg; Crawford,Bullen. Substitutes not used: Reid, S Thomson, McGarty.

Celtic (4-4-2): Gould; Boyd,Valgaeren, Mjallby, Mahé (Moravcik, 66); McNamara,Lambert, Petrov, Thompson; Larsson, Sutton. Substitutes not used: Stubbs, Kerr, Burchill, Riseth.

Referee: W Young.

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