Larsson celebrates after birthday card

Celtic 3 Motherwell 0
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Henrik Larsson celebrated his 32nd birthday with an unwanted card, a yellow one, and his habitual goal at Parkhead as Celtic exorcised the painful memory of Munich by regaining their place at the top of the Scottish Premier League table.

If the Swede's honesty was impugned by a caution for diving when it was easier to score, his ruthless 47th-minute header made a mockery of that decision and broke Motherwell's resistance before Chris Sutton and Shaun Maloney also found the net.

The person under most scrutiny from the 58,000 fans was Magnus Hedman. The Swedish goalkeeper had admitted culpability for Bayern Munich's winner in midweek, and when he flapped at an early corner from Steven Hammell, it was obvious that Hedman had not shaken off the torment of the Olympiastadion.

Motherwell, in contrast, played like a team without a care in the world, thanks, no doubt, to seven points in the last three games but also the knowledge that Terry Butcher's young side had inflicted defeat on both Celtic and Rangers last season.

A composed passage of passing ought to have brought reward when David Clarkson broke away in a swift counter-attack and picked out the supporting run of Stephen Pearson. The Scotland Under-21 player's control, however, saw the chance squandered.

There was far more anxiety just after the half-hour when Hedman and Stanislav Varga had another mix-up in communication that saw the latter duck out of heading Hammell's cross, prompting some angry exchanges.

The real talking point of the first half came in the 35th minute. Larsson pounced on Sutton's head-flick and got beyond his marker before advancing on Gordon Marshall. The striker dragged the ball wide of the goalkeeper, who appeared to catch him with his trailing leg, but instead of a penalty Larsson received a yellow card for what the referee interpreted as a dive.

Larsson, though, only had to store up his frustration until the second minute of the second half. Alan Thompson's free-kick from the left touchline anticipated Larsson's movement and his header beat Marshall from 12 yards.

Hedman then managed to repair his reputation with a fine save at the feet of Pearson - it proved important, because Sutton stretched Celtic's lead in the 64th minute.

Maloney, who had just replaced John Hartson, robbed Derek Adams and fed Larsson, who threaded a pass to Sutton. The former Chelsea striker stretched to control the ball and then guided a right-foot shot beyond Marshall.

Six minutes later, Maloney sealed the success with an exquisite free-kick. The youngster earned it himself, drawing a foul from Adams, allowing Maloney to whip his kick up and over the wall, before it kissed the inside of Marshall's post.

Celtic 3 Motherwell 0
Larsson 47, Sutton 64, Maloney 70

Half-time: 0-0 Attendance: 58,013

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