Five-star Celtic close gap

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The Independent Online

The Celtic manager Gordon Strachan hailed yesterday's 5-1 win over St Mirren in the Premier League as the ideal end to an excellent week.

The Scottish champions booked their place in the group stages of the Champions League following a gruelling qualifier against Spartak Moscow, which was decided by a tense penalty shoot-out at Parkhead midweek. Celtic then shrugged off any fatigue to move to within two points of leaders Rangers with a comfortable victory at Love Street.

First-half strikes from Scott Brown and Scott McDonald gave the champions a comfortable interval lead. A Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink header, a Derek Riordan effort that was deflected into his own net by defender Franco Miranda and a Stephen McManus strike sealed an easy win with Miranda scoring a consolation.

"They were terrific," Strachan said. "We have had an emotional, physical and mental drain the other night and the players were absolutely fantastic today. The subs were fantastic as well. All in all, it has been a great week for us."

On Saturday, Rangers made it five wins out of five by beating Gretna 4-0, leaving the Premier League newcomers still seeking their first victory.

Rangers began slowly but any effects of their Champions League trip to Belgrade were shrugged off in the second half. There were goals for Kris Boyd, debutant Andy Webster and Carlos Cuellar, while Aurelien Collin inadvertently added to Rangers' tally.

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