Larsson heads Celtic title push

Motherwell 0 Celtic 4
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The Independent Football

Celtic moved to within just one victory of the Scottish Premier League title when hammering Motherwell 4-0 at Fir Park last night. With the championship so close, Celtic's hunger was underlined by the fact that Martin O'Neill ditched his normal 3-5-2 policy and allowed Lubomir Moravcik a roving commission behind Henrk Larsson and John Hartson.

However, Paul Lambert was the unexpected source of the breakthrough that Celtic craved after just nine minutes. Lambert showed just why Berti Vogts begged him to come back to Scotland's cause with a mesmeric goal. Gathering Moravcik's pass, his thrust towards the box saw the Celtic captain swap passes with Hartson, and then Larsson, who conjured up an audacious backheel upon which Lambert pounced to sweep in his fourth goal of the season.

It was a rude welcome for Francois Dubourdeau, Motherwell's new signing from Bordeaux, who was making his debut. The French goalkeeper, however, showed superb reflexes in the 27th minute, to parry a fierce shot from Stilian Petrov and though Larsson pounced on the rebound, his cross to Hartson was not finished off.

Motherwell almost restored parity just before half-time when Greg Strong thrashed a shot from 30 yards that nearly knocked Robert Douglas off his feet as the Celtic goalkeeper beat it away. Celtic, though, simply cut loose in the second half with a ruthless display of finishing.

Moravcik's 53rd minute corner picked out Larsson, who rose and powered a header beyond Duboudeau for his 30th goal of the season.

Motherwell's frustration then saw Stephen Pearson sent off for an ugly tackle on Didier Agathe before Larsson added to his impressive haul by burying a penalty, after Doubourdeau had brought down the Welshman as he ran through on goal, though the goalkeeper was charitably allowed to remain on the pitch. The young Frenchman would wish he had not, because he had to pick the ball out of the net when Johan Mjallby sealed the victory with a crashing volley from the edge of the box.

Motherwell (3-5-2): Dubourdeau; Deloumeaux, Ready, Strong; Corrigan, Soloy, Lasley, Pearson, Hammell; McFadden, Elliott. Substitutes not used: Woods (gk), Martinez, Adams, Ferrere, Ramsay.

Celtic (3-5-2): Douglas; Mjallby, Boyd, Crainey; Agathe, Lambert, Petrov, Moravcik, Guppy; Hartson, Larsson. Substitutes not used: Gould (gk), Sylla, McNamara, Tebily, Smith.

Referee: S Dougal.