Celtic on top after six-goal thriller

Dundee United 2 Celtic 4
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The Independent Football

Chris Sutton led the line superbly for Celtic, scoring one and forcing another after heading an early own goal, to leave Strachan's side at the SPL summit this morning on goal difference from Hearts. Both sides have 32 points after 10 wins, two draws and a defeat.

Hearts' remarkable start, allied with Celtic's matching consistency, Hibernian's dynamism and the mediocrity of Rangers - who stumbled to another poor draw on Saturday, leaving Alex McLeish inches from the sack - has created the possibility of as many as four teams vying for the title.

"For the image of our league it's fantastic," Strachan said. "There's a magic missing from the English league at this moment because of the domination of Chelsea. There's a huge fear from everyone in England - sponsors [and] fans turning away from the game - because of this domination."

He added that he and many people in England would relish the chance of the Old Firm playing south of the border.

United unexpectedly scored first yesterday after Sutton headed into his own net from Dundee's fourth-minute inswinging corner.

Six minutes later Celtic had a penalty shout turned down after Shaun Maloney fell in the box. It seemed the correct decision. But Celtic had to wait only seven minutes more to draw level when Paul Telfer's pass found an unmarked Hartson, who hit his shot low into the net. Maloney then cut in from the left and unleashed a drive, which was touched in by Sutton.

Parity was quickly restored after Collin Samuel scampered free near the Celtic goal to score. Yet Celtic immediately went ahead again when Maloney's corner was touched on by Bobo Baldé and Sutton before entering the net off the back of Dundee's Alan Archibald.

An end-to-end second half promised more goals but delivered only one - Stephen Pearson tapping in Stilian Petrov's cross two minutes from time.

Goals: Sutton, og (4) 1-0; Hartson (17) 1-1; Sutton (28) 1-2; Samuel (30) 2-2; Archibald og (32) 2-3; Pearson (88) 2-4.

Dundee United (3-5-2): Stillie; Kenneth, Ritchie, Archibald; Wilson, Canero, Brebner, Kerr, Robson; Samuel, McIntyre (Miller, 65). Substitutes not used: Samson (gk), McInnes, Duff, Dodds, Robertson, Cameron.

Celtic (4-1-3-2): Boruc; Telfer, Baldé, McManus, Camara; Lennon; Nakamura, Petrov, Maloney (McGeady, 90); Sutton, Hartson (Beattie, 75 [Pearson, 83]). Substitutes not used: Marshall (gk), Virgo, Agathe, Wallace.

Referee: A Freeland (Scotland).

Booked: Celtic: McManus.

Man of the match: Sutton

Attendance: 11,942.

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