Larsson's double shows Celtic way forward

Celtic 3 FK Teplice 0
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The Independent Football

Henrik Larsson wrote a new chapter in his remarkable Celtic story last night with two goals that were bookends on a result which surely put them on the verge of progressing to the last 16 of the Uefa Cup.

The Swede punished FK Teplice at Parkhead with a clinical header in stoppage time to add to his strike after three minutes. Celtic may have dropped into this competition reluctantly from the Champions' League, but the hunger for another appearance in the final is evident.

Larsson gave his side a three-goal cushion to take to Prague next Wednesday, burying Stilian Petrov's corner, after he and Chris Sutton had put Celtic in early control.

Celtic had already earned a prize before they even kicked off last night. Sepp Blatter, the president of world football's governing body, Fifa, had bestowed his organisation's Fair Play Award on the Celtic supporters for their impeccable behaviour last May when 80,000 converged on Seville for the Uefa Cup final, many without a ticket, and not one was arrested.

Blatter, though, ceded to Larsson in terms of importance for the Parkhead crowd. No sooner had he left the pitch than the real VIP in Celtic eyes did what he does best - scored a goal.

Larsson plundered his 33rd European goal for the club after just three minutes, seizing on a fine pass from Alan Thompson before drawing Tomas Postulka and drilling his right-foot shot past the goalkeeper from 18 yards.

Ten minutes later, Sutton doubled the lead when he profited from a slack clearance that was returned by Paul Lambert for Sutton to escape and win the race against the advancing Postulka, dragging the ball wide of the keeper and finding the net for his 23rd goal of the season.

Teplice, who had eliminated Feyenoord and Kaiserslautern, were bemused. Their game plan could have been in tatters had Thompson buried a cutback from Stephen Pearson, dummied delightfully by Larsson, but the midfielder fired over on his weaker right foot.

Pearson ought to have scored a third 10 minutes before half-time, with just Postulka to beat, but the keeper beat out his shot.

In contrast, the second half was far scrappier. That seemed to suit the Czechs, who preferred to mix it. Teplice incurred bookings for Dusan Tesarik and Jiri Skala for scything tackles, and seemed happy to embrace a stop-start pattern in an attempt to stem the Celtic tide.

The only real threat that the visitors posed came before the hour-mark when the Celtic goalkeeper, Rab Douglas, bravely dived at the feet of Jiri Masek. Postulka, on the other hand, was protected by a blanket defence of yellow shirts.

Thompson fired a left-foot shot just over the bar with 11 minutes left, and the threat of John Hartson warming up as a substitute promised a rousing finale which was delivered with Larsson's goal.

Celtic (3-5-2): Douglas; Baldé, Varga, McNamara (Valgaeren, 86); Agathe, Petrov, Lambert, Pearson (Sylla, 72), Thompson; Larsson, Sutton. Substitutes not used: Marshall (gk), Hartson, Wallace, Beattie, Kennedy.

FK Teplice (4-4-2): Postulka; Leitner, Rada, Dolezal, Hunal; Tesarik, Verbir, Skala, Ryska; Masek, Kowalik. Substitutes not used: Kolar (gk), Sigmund, Rilke, Kuchar, Horvath.

Referee: K Plautz (Austria).