Thompson leads rout of Livingston as Celtic soar away

Celtic 5 Livingston 1
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There is not so much clear water between Celtic and Rangers in the title race as a sea that threatens to swallow up Alex McLeish's side should their season end when they come to Parkhead for the Old Firm derby next Sunday.

The Scottish Cup was the only realistic target left for last season's Treble winners going into this weekend's fixtures. But the 16-point deficit that opened up after Rangers lost 2-0 to Dundee United yesterday means that the League title could come gift-wrapped for Martin O'Neill's side before Easter at this rate.

The Celtic manager stubbornly refused to admit victory, no doubt fearful of igniting a response from Rangers, but the manner of his side's win over Livingston, coupled with Rangers' defeat, certainly signalled a sea change in Scottish football.

Parkhead was on its feet to acclaim a double from Alan Thompson, along with goals from Stephen Pearson, Chris Sutton and Henrik Larsson, but it was the news via the radio from Tannadice that was greeted the most lustily.

"I don't think it is decided yet," O'Neill said. "However, it is a good day for us, especially with Rangers losing. Can we go through the season unbeaten? I don't think so. That's for the media to talk about, the players certainly don't."

Stephen Pearson took advantage of a great piece of interplay between Stilian Petrov, Sutton and Stanislav Varga in the 11th minute to clip the ball past the Livi goalkeeper, Roddy McKenzie.

Sutton made it 2-0 in the 36th minute, after Thompson's free-kick was headed on by Larsson. Livingston, however, reduced the deficit in the 41st minute when Lilley converted a fine ball from Burton O'Brien.

Thompson restored their margin in the 48th minute, before Larsson made it 4-1 seven minutes later with a venomous shot after an indirect free-kick. Thompson ended the rout from the penalty spot in the 79th minute, after substitute Craig Beattie was brought down.

Goals: Pearson (11) 1-0; Sutton (36) 2-0; Lilley (41) 2-1; Thompson (48) 3-1; Larsson (55) 4-1; Thompson (79pen) 5-1.

Celtic (3-5-2): Douglas; Kennedy, Balde, Varga (Valgaeren 74); Agathe, Lennon, Petrov, Pearson, Thompson; Larsson (Beattie 67), Sutton (Sylla 67). Substitutes not used: Marshall (GK), Lambert.

Livingston (3-5-2): McKenzie; Andrews, Rubio (McMenamin 46), Dorado; McNamee, O'Brien, Lovell, Makel (McGovern 66), McAllister; Pasquinelli, Lilley. Substitutes not used: Main (GK), McLaughlin, Brittain.

Referee: S Dougal.

Bookings: Celtic: Lennon, Varga. Livingston: McAllister, McNamee.

Attendance: 57,973.

Man of the match: Thompson.