Priceless Dutchman

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The Independent Online
Hibernian 0

Celtic 4

Thom 31, 74, Van Hooijdonk 61, Donnelly 77

Attendance: 14,135

The word is that Pierre van Hooijdonk is on his way to Aston Villa to replace Savo Milosevic with just pounds 3.5m changing hands; someone, somewhere, has got his sums considerably wrong. How the lethal Celtic striker could be traded for someone valued at much less than Brian Little is charging Perugia for the inept Yugoslav is baffling.

Van Hooijdonk scored yet again, his 11th of the season, in the rout of sad Hibs to take his tally to 51 in 20 months since coming to Celtic from Holland. The striker is going in next week for contract talks with the Celtic chairman, Fergus McCann, accompanied by his Dutch agent, Rob Jansen, but surely his procession of goals will do enough to convince the club that the only solution to the rift is an increased salary.

Certainly, the young Hibernian keeper Chris Reid, who was deputising for the suspended Jim Leighton and playing his first match in three and a half years, should not trouble himself. Van Hooijdonk has claimed greater victims, as Welsh goalkeeper Neville Southall would testify.

Though Van Hooijdonk claimed the greatest share of the attention, it was his less-heralded but equally influential continental friend Andreas Thom who provided the most telling moments. The German set Celtic on their way with the 31st-minute opening goal, which his pace created for him. Hibs threatened to equalise shortly after the interval when first Ian Cameron and then Kevin Harper came close to breaking the barrier that stretched across the Celtic area.

However, a midfield which contained the tiring legs of the 40-year-old Ray Wilkins was no match for their more vibrant Celtic counterparts, and it was no surprise when the Parkhead team throttled the match soon after. Van Hooijdonk delivered a lesson in the 60th minute to his Italian team- mate Paolo Di Canio, who had squandered a glorious chance minutes earlier when beating two Hibs defenders but then being undone by his own selfish dribbling. The Dutchman displayed no such stupidity. Simon Donnelly floated over a corner and Van Hooijdonk delivered the ball into the net with a header of astonishing power.

Thom made it safe for Celtic in the 73rd minute when he crashed in a 25-yard shot from the left flank. Van Hooijdonk then returned the compliment to Donnelly, albeit inadvertently, when his shot came off the bar and fell into the path of the young striker to drill in the rebound.

The Celtic manager, Tommy Burns, praised Thom: "He is a huge influence on our side, particularly with his composure. He knows when to slow down and when to speed it up." Celtic likewise, know they are now going into top gear in their title pursuit.

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