Larsson joy fails to mask flaws

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The Independent Football

The hottest-selling item on a baking Glasgow afternoon was not suncream but Henrik Larsson masks worn by thousands of Celtic fans to welcome back their hero after his horrendous injury. But after this showing Martin O'Neill may want to invest in a few to disguise the deficiencies his other players just cannot hide.

The hottest-selling item on a baking Glasgow afternoon was not suncream but Henrik Larsson masks worn by thousands of Celtic fans to welcome back their hero after his horrendous injury. But after this showing Martin O'Neill may want to invest in a few to disguise the deficiencies his other players just cannot hide.

Celtic's new manager was cheered on to the pitch by the 47,224 supporters and joked via the microphone: "I hope I'm not getting booed by September." Ninety minutes later his team exited to the sound of silence, beaten by an aggressive Bordeaux and their own flaws.

O'Neill knows the real test comes next week when the duel with Rangers restarts but many managers would have opted to iron out pre-season wrinkles in a quiet backwater away from the harsh scrutiny of Parkhead, instead of facing the French champions of 1999.

The French league season begins next Friday and while Sylvain Wiltord, the saviour of France in the European Championship final, was absent pursuing a transfer, another Euro 2000 hero, Christophe Dugarry, put his weight about. His early, audacious volley was the only moment of craft in a plethora of biting challenges.

His low cross in the 27th minute set up Lilian Laslandes, but the goalkeeper Stewart Kerr smothered. However six minutes later Dugarry helped put Bordeaux ahead, though the credit, or perhaps blame, goes to Celtic's Oliver Tebily. The Ivory Coast defender inexcusably took a fresh-air swipe at Dugarry's lofted pass and new signing Marc Wilmots, the Belgian midfielder, pounced to steer beyond Kerr.

Larsson restored parity just seconds before half-time with a coolly taken penalty, after David Sommeil handled Eyal Berkovic's pass. It was the dreadlocked striker's first goal in a Celtic shirt in 10 months but, more significantly for O'Neill, it continued where the Swede left off at Euro 2000 when he scored sublimely against Italy.

There is more to Larsson than goals though, as he under-lined in the 53rd minute when he unselfishly allowed Mark Burchill to score with a diving header from a neat cutback. A searing overhead kick had his adoring legions almost lifting the roof off the stadium, before Bordeaux's aptly named Laurent Battles embarked on a bit of demolition work of his own, earning a red card in the 65th minute for scything Berkovic down and then kicking him.

Celtic, perhaps rattled, conceded two cheap goals in three minutes. First Laslandes' free-kick squirmed through Kerr's hands for a 67th-minute equal-iser, then the substitute Pascale Fundouno lobbed the keeper and Jerome Bonnissel strode past some tiring tackles in the 86th minute to rifle in a fourth.

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