Thompson and Maloney give Celtic goal boost

Celtic 6 Dundee 2
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The Independent Football

This title race is going down to the wire. Celtic wrested power at the top of the Scottish Premier League from Rangers as they took apart Dundee in their penultimate fixture.

The game had been moved forward to allow Martin O'Neill's side time to prepare for next week's Uefa Cup final but there was no soft-pedalling as Celtic went three points clear and, perhaps crucially, improved their goal difference as Alan Thompson and Shaun Maloney each collected two.

Rangers had thrown down the gauntlet last Sunday with a 4-0 demolition of Kilmarnock that lifted them back to the top of the table on goal difference. Celtic knew they had to respond in kind.

After 14 minutes the champions surged in front. A probing pass hit by Thompson looped over the Dundee back four, releasing Larsson, whose deft control took the ball out of the air with one touch. The Swede rounded the goalkeeper Julian Speroni before rifling the ball into the net.

Parkhead was in a ferment. The fans craved more goals but, the next time the net rustled, this cavernous ground was in a state of disbelief. Dundee equalised in the 25th minute when Nacho Novo drifted in from the right and Barry Smith, a former Celtic player, scored against his old club with a fierce right-foot shot.

Celtic came back within four minutes as Thompson plundered a double. Agathe's cross set up the first, being headed down by Larsson for Thompson to thump a diving header past Speroni. Thompson then struck again, from another Agathe cross, low this time, which he volleyed past the goalkeeper.

There was no let up in the second half and Maloney netted Celtic's fourth in the 53rd minute, pouncing on a mistake by Lee Wilkie and guiding a right-foot shot beyond Speroni. The teenager struck again 10 minutes later with a gorgeous goal, curling a right-foot shot past the keeper.

Johan Mjallby made it 6-1 in the 78th minute, popping up to polish off Bobo Baldé's knock-down with a half-volley. Celtic's fans roared for more but it was Dundee who scored the game's last goal, through Lee Mair in injury time.

Celtic (3-5-2): Sanchez Broto; Mjallby, Baldé, Valgaeren; Agathe, Lambert, Lennon, Petrov, Thompson; Larsson, Maloney (J Smith, 82). Substitutes not used: Douglas (gk), McNamara, Fernandez, Crainey.

Dundee (4-3-3): Speroni; Mackay, Wilkie (Brady, 68), Khizanishvili (Forbes, 56), Hernandez; B Smith, Rae, Mair; Novo, Burchill (Carranza, 72), Milne. Substitutes not used: Langfield (gk), Nemsadze.

Referee: T Brown.