Below par Celts beat the Pars 5-0

Celtic struck four times in a second-half blitz against Dunfermline to move eight points clear at the top of the Bank of Scotland Premier League table.

Celtic 5 Dunfermline 0

Celtic struck four times in a second-half blitz against Dunfermline to move eight points clear at the top of the Bank of Scotland Premier League table.

A John Hartson double and strikes from Ross Wallace, Stanislav Varga and Henrik Larsson were cruel on the Pars.

But Martin O’Neill’s side had looked out-of-sorts for long periods after the excellent Champions League win over Anderlecht and struggled to find a spark without the injured livewire Liam Miller.

However, the late introduction of Ross Wallace inspired the Hoops in the closing stages.

There was little to suggest Celtic would struggle against the Fife club in the opening moments of the game.

Indeed, Rob Douglas was offered little to deal with throughout the 90 minutes in his preparation for the Euro 2004 play-off against Holland next week.

Larsson and Stilian Petrov combined in the ninth minute and the Bulgarian was inches away from getting on the end of his team-mate’s ball across the face of goal.

Shaun Maloney was keen to make as big an impact as Miller had done in midweek and his quick feet were too much for Gary Mason as he chopped him down to earn the first booking of the game.

Chris Sutton then sent a left-foot effort over the bar after more good work by Hartson before the Pars gave them a warning when Lee Bullen headed Scott Thomson’s free-kick wide.

Celtic squandered another chance in the 22nd minute when Maloney found Larsson but his cross was headed over by Sutton at full stretch from eight yards.

The home side’s patience, however, paid off a minute later when they took the lead courtesy of a great strike from Hartson.

Larsson threaded the ball through to the overlapping Didier Agathe to clip the ball into the area where the big Welshman was waiting to crash a crisp right-foot shot past the despairing dive of Derek Stillie.

After the re-start, Sutton brought the game to life again with a right-foot shot which Stillie could not hold but Petrov was unable to steer home the rebound.

Pars boss Jimmy Calderwood made a change in the 61st minute by bringing on Gary Dempsey for Mason and, within a minute, they had gone close to going level.

Billy Mehmet was given far too much space to turn and crashed a right-foot shot against the underside of the crossbar which bounced down still in play.

Both managers made changes with Maloney coming off and Wallace entering the action while Craig Brewster replaced Andy McDermott.

Larsson headed Petrov’s cross over in the 75th minute before Hartson eased Celtic’s nerves with a cool toe poke past the on-rushing Stillie two minutes later.

But there was still time for Wallace to make a name for himself when he turned a defender inside out before drilling a right-foot shot past Stillie and into the bottom corner.

Varga also got in the act with seven minutes remaining as he stooped to head past the Pars’ goalkeeper.

Johan Mjallby made his first-team return from the bench with Bobo Balde going off while Momo Sylla replaced Petrov.

With just three minutes left, Larsson also got his name on the scoresheet when he latched on to Sutton’s pass and somehow squeezed the ball into the net from a tight of angle.

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