Stubbs off on Celtic debut

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The Independent Online
Celtic, whose supporters are desperate enough to enter a Faustian pact to prevent Rangers equalling the club's record of nine consecutive Scottish titles, were put through the emotional wringer at Pittodrie before Andreas Thom salvaged a point against Aberdeen with a 90th-minute equaliser. New signing Alan Stubbs had been sent off earlier.

The match, which Celtic were dominating, was turned on its head when the Dons' manager, former Celtic favourite Roy Aitken, sent on substitute Duncan Shearer in place of Tsanko Tzvetanov with the visitors 1-0 ahead.

Pierre Van Hooijdonk, last season's leading scorer in the Scottish Premier, had given Celtic the lead in the 24th minute. His free-kick was charged down by the Dons' lone striker, Dean Windass, who was booked for not retreating 10 yards. The Dutchman exacted fuller punishment when he drove the re- taken free-kick past Michael Watt from 30 yards.

Gaps began to appear in the visitors' defence after Shearer's appearance and when, with 74 minutes gone, he got goalside of Stubbs, the former Bolton defender pulled him down, was sent off and Windass converted the penalty. Shearer gave the Dons the lead six minutes later but Andreas Thom salvaged a point with a 90th minute equaliser.

The honour of scoring the first competitive goal of the Premier season fell to Gary McSwegan who put promoted Dundee United 1-0 up at home to Motherwell when he headed in Ray McKinnon's cross after seven minutes. McSwegan should have added a second minutes before half-time but shot wide, and United paid the price when Michel Van Der Gaag equalised.

One of the reasons why Celtic lost the title race with Rangers last season was three draws with Kilmarnock. Yesterday, the Killies went to Easter Road and beat Hibernian. They took the lead in the 20th minute when a long clearance bounced off Gordon Hunter to set up Ally Mitchell's 20- yard strike and they made it two six minutes later when John Henry, who consistently troubled Hibs, fired past Jim Leighton from the edge of the penalty area. Michael Weir pulled one back almost immediately but it remained 2-1.

Yesterday's events emphasised the concern of the national coach, Craig Brown, that there are too many overseas players in the Scottish game, particularly at Rangers and Celtic. "Rangers had a team out against opponents from Russia [the champions Alania Vladikavkaz] during the week and had six players who were ineligible for Scotland," he said. "And that was without Paul Gascoigne."

In England, the phoney war of pre-season friendlies continued with a 2-1 win for Spurs at Charlton but their north London neighbours Arsenal could only draw 1-1 at Ipswich in John Wark's testimonial. Plymouth beat Manchester City 1-0.

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