Larsson takes his cue in the queue

Celtic 5 Dundee United 0
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The Independent Football

Henrik Larsson may be head and shoulders above almost everyone in Europe, but the prolific striker had to get to the back of the queue yesterday as Celtic went on a feeding frenzy to secure their opening Scottish Premier League success.

The Swede eclipsed Ian Rush and Peter Lorimer with the strike which prompted the 4-0 rout of MTK Hungaria in midweek and guaranteed Martin O'Neill's team a place in the Champions' League. Larsson's 31 goals in European competition for Celtic is the best tally of any player with a British club, and elsewhere only Real Madrid's Raul has gone beyond that mark.

However, Larsson had to be patient as eager colleagues monopolised the scoring. Shaun Maloney, Didier Agathe, Alan Thompson and Jackie McNamara all found the net before the master craftsman was allowed the privilege six minutes from the end.

The 57,658 crowd who witnessed Celtic's first home League game of the season rose in acclaim as Larsson deftly controlled a deep pass over the United defence from Stanislav Varga and coolly lofted the ball over goalkeeper Paul Gallacher to maintain a remarkable record.

Larsson scored in every single appearance on this pitch - in the Uefa Cup run as well as the SPL - last season. Given that Celtic's icon is bowing out of Parkhead at the end of the season, every such goal will be treated like manna from heaven.

Yet he is an equally clever foil for others, as Maloney discovered in the 12th minute as his back-heel to Larsson was returned into his path to allow the little forward to steer a composed left-foot shot beyond Gallacher.

Gallacher, though, defied Larsson's efforts to increase the scoreline, pushing a ferocious shot over and then touching a net-bound header on to the underside of the bar. However, the keeper could do nothing when Agathe beat him in the 27th minute, bundling in a wicked cross from Thompson with his knee.

Thompson needed the reassurance of a goal, too. The former Aston Villa midfielder then struck with a penalty just before the interval, after Larsson had been brought down by Gallacher as he bore down on goal - Celtic would have given anything for such an effective outcome on the final day of last season, when a miss cost his team the title.

Dundee United had undergone a summer revolution with their, manager, Ian McCall, bringing in 11 new players, but this team could do little better than their predecessors on a ground they have not won at in the past 12 years.

Their tackling became more ragged as the second half wore on, and eventually Celtic plundered another in the 67th minute with a move that numbered more than 20 passes.

Eventually, Thompson and McNamara exchanged passes before Thompson's reverse ball was held up by Larsson for the run of McNamara into the box, and the Scotland midfielder sweetly thumped a rising shot into the roof of the net.

O'Neill - who rested four players from midweek - may be looking at new recruits to bolster European ambitions, but his current crop are well equipped to cope with the domestic pursuit of glory.

Celtic 5 Dundee United 0
Maloney 12, Agathe 27, Thompson pen 45, McNamara 67, Larsson 84

Half-time 3-0 Attendance: 57,658

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