Larsson draws Dundee's sting

Dundee 0 Celtic 4
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This was a real Italian lesson. Ivano Bonetti's report card to his former club, Juventus, will highlight how a side with flair and creativity were tamed at Dens Park last night.

Sadly for the Dundee player-manager, it was his team who filled that role. Celtic underwent fierce examination before their Champions' League test in Turin yet ruthlessly broke through on four occasions. Henrik Larsson struck twice with headers and Martin O'Neill would love a carbon copy from Europe's top scorer against Europe's most glamorous club on Tuesday.

The only time a frenetic tempo at Dens Park halted all evening was for the minute before kick-off when a raucous crowd ignored Bill Shankly's maxim about football being more important than life and silently remembered those who died across the Atlantic.

Aptly, high in the stand named after the Liverpool legend's brother Bob, who took Dundee to the European Cup semi-final in 1963, was a Celtic banner which read simply: "America – You'll Never Walk Alone".

The stillness was a memory by half-time, thanks to an absorbing contest in which Dundee put O'Neill's side under severe scrutiny. Had it not been for Robert Douglas, returning to the club which sold him 11 months ago, then Celtic would have been staring at a two-goal deficit. The goalkeeper first reacted superbly after just eight minutes to sprawl and push Giorgi Nemsadze's low curling free-kick past the post.

It became one-way traffic towards Douglas as Dundee disrupted the champions by closing them down quickly in midfield and offering support to their lone striker Steven Milne.

Nemsadze is one of Dundee's many players with Serie A experience and the Georgian captain's deft pass carved Celtic open after half an hour. Mark Robertson was poised to go round Douglas until the keeper bravely blocked at his feet.

Yet another reprieve was issued by Douglas before half time, as Gavin Rae's flick threatened to beat him. The keeper flipped out an arm to parry the ball and, with Milne poised to finish, Bobo Balde arrived with a flourish to scoop the ball over the bar to safety.

And yet, when the deadlock was broken, it was Dundee's Jamie Langfield who had to pick the ball out of a net. Chris Sutton won a foul in first-half stoppage time, which allowed Lubomir Moravcik to deliver the ball. Giants like Balde and Johan Mjallby were lined up to attack it, but somehow Larsson materialised at the front of the queue and thumped a downward header past Dundee's keeper.

Just before the hour, Larsson struck again. The Swede has an extraordinary ability to leap and when Alan Thompson delivered a corner which raked across the face of goal, it was Larsson who outjumped Romano and buried another header beyond Langfield.

Celtic then rubbed salt into the wound with a third goal in the 64th minute after Larsson had been brought down by Walter Del Rio – who was booked – as the striker threatened to escape. Larsson rolled the free-kick into the path of Stilian Petrov who clubbed a venomous effort that soared into the roof of the net from 35 yards. It completed a remarkable return for a player who suffered a badly fractured leg just six months ago.

Dundee's misery was not finished. Del Rio brought down Larsson again to earn the second caution which saw him expelled. Then Celtic substitute Shaun Maloney inflicted a fourth goal with three minutes left, ghosting onto Paul Lambert's pass to steer a shot past Langfield.

Dundee 0 Celtic 4

Larsson 45, 59, Petrov 70, Maloney 88

Half-time 0-1 Attendance: 9,842