Sun, Mar 09, 2003 - Page 23 News List

Celtic keep hoop dreams alive

BHOYED UP A solitary strike from Welshman Jon Hartson put Martin O'Neill's men hot on the heels of rivals Rangers in a typically fiery Old Firm encounter

REUTERS , GLASGOW

Celtic's John Hartson, left, vies with Rangers' Craig Moore during the Bank of Scotland Scottish Premier League match at Celtic Park in Glasgow yesterday.

PHOTO: AFP

Celtic got a flying start to the fortnight that will make or break their season when they deservedly beat Rangers 1-0 in a typically robust Glasgow derby at Parkhead yesterday.

The victory, Celtic's first over Rangers in their last seven attempts, was secured by John Hartson's 57th-minute goal.

The winners move to to 75 points, back within three points of leaders Rangers. Celtic have a game in hand and their hopes of a third successive premier league crown have risen sharply.

Celtic now look forward to Thursday's all-British UEFA Cup quarter-final first leg with Liverpool. After that they tackle Rangers again in the League Cup final at Hampden Park on March 16 and then comes the second leg against Liverpool, followed three days later by a Scottish Cup quarter-final at first division Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

Celtic created the first real chance yesterday on 13 minutes as Hartson sliced Stilian Petrov's corner wide when it looked easier to hit the target.

Fernando Ricksen was booked for scything down Paul Lambert and his Rangers team mate Craig Moore also received a yellow for persistent fouling.

The visitors spent most of their time repelling Celtic's attacks, but showed their threat when Mikel Arteta flashed an effort narrowly wide from Shota Arveladze's neat flick on 27 minutes.

Petrov then tried his luck for Celtic from the edge of the box two minutes later but Lorenzo Amoruso, notable for a number of vital interceptions, managed to throw his frame in the way to deflect wide.

Despite losing French winger Didier Agathe in the first half due to a hamstring strain, the home side were enjoying most of the play and unmarked Hartson wasted another superb chance when he headed a corner wide with the visitors in disarray.

But the Welsh striker handed the home side a deserved lead with a fine strike from just inside the area 12 minutes into the second half.

Celtic pushed for a killer second goal and Neil Lennon almost provided it when he spanked a drive past a post.

Rangers were a threat right to the end despite being largely second best and only an excellent save from Robert Douglas denied Amoruso's long-range free kick

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