Larsson and Viduka share the spoils

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The Independent Football

HAVING DONE England a favour, free of charge, last weekend, Henrik Larsson returned on Saturday to doing what is he paid for and what he does best: finding the net for Celtic.

HAVING DONE England a favour, free of charge, last weekend, Henrik Larsson returned on Saturday to doing what is he paid for and what he does best: finding the net for Celtic.

The prolific Swedish striker was the chief instrument in the dismemberment of the bottom club, Aberdeen with a stunning hat-trick in the 7-0 rout which helped John Barnes' team to close the gap on the leaders Rangers, who stumbled at Kilmarnock, to just four points with a game in hand.

It was, what every goal artist will never tire of saying, the perfect hat-trick: right-foot shot, left-foot volley, header. The fact that Aberdeen's goalkeeper, David Preece, was later detained in hospital suffering loss of memory following a clash of heads was not connected, but it is appropriate for the man behind Europe's worst defence.

Larsson has now claimed 13 goals this season for Celtic, which, on top of the 38 he struck last term, helped the dreadlocked Swede to overtake Brian McClair's 12-year-old record as the Celtic player to hit the fastest 50 top-flight goals. While cynics south of the border say it is easier to score in Scotland, it should not be forgotten that Larsson - unlike Alan Shearer and Michael Owen - found the net when it counted against Poland.

"I'm pleased but it's not something I think about," claimed the modest Swede afterwards. Larsson's unselfish work also helped Mark Viduka to a second half hat-trick too, illustrating why Celtic last April handed Larsson a four-year contract which pays £28,000 a week. The rapturous 60,033 crowd would willingly have stumped up double to watch it again.

Rangers dropped their first points of the campaign with a 1-1 draw away to Kilmarnock, ending a run of eight successive league victories. Giovanni van Bronckhorst had put the champions in front with a deft 25th-minute lob, but the substitute Michael Jeffrey struck back with a 73rd-minute header.

However, the day was overshadowed by a leg break for Ally McCoist, following a tackle with Lorenzo Amoruso, which could force the former Ibrox idol - and European Golden Boot winner - to hang up his boots at 37. "We have no idea how long Ally will be out, but, at his age, breaks are not good," said the Kilmarnock manager, Bobby Williamson.

Hearts moved into third place despite dropping points in the 1-1 home draw with St Johnstone. Gary McSwegan continued where he left off for Scotland last week with a fine fifth-minute opener, but Nathan Lowndes equalised for Saints in the second half.

Steve McMillan earned Motherwell a 2-2 draw at home to Hibernian with a curling shot after Russell Latapy and Mixu Paatelainen had put the Edinburgh side on the scent of a first victory in two months.

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