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First-minute goal sets the pace for Celtic Euro revival

Celtic fly back to Glasgow this morning after a valuable result in Europe against Vitoria Guimaraes - but also with their confidence lifted in advance of the Old Firm game at the weekend.

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Last night in Portugal the 2-1 win gave the Parkhead side a passport to the second round of the UEFA Cup, but, just as important, it eased the pressure on the team and on their coach Dr Jozef Venglos. The 200 fans, who had followed, and who had their own space on one of the terraces of the half-filled stadium - only 9000 watched the game - celebrated the victory, and left with hope in their hearts for the future after weeks of disappointment and dismay. Their mood had been lightened after only 50 seconds of the game. That's how long it took Celtic to go in front. Paul Lambert released Phil O'Donnell - making only his second start of the season - down the left. He created space for himself and then crossed and Henrik Larsson was there with a header to finish things off, and to push Celtic into a commanding position they never really lost. There were times, of course, when they were under pressure, times when they might well have lost that lead, but that is the way of football in Europe. On this night Celtic were the team who scored first, and who deserved to stay ahead. Their defence, particularly Marc Rieper and Alan Stubbs stood firm against the Brazilian strikeforce of Gilmar and Edmilson. And in midfield, the Scots always carried threat from Craig Burley and from O'Donnell. They even managed to shrug off an injury to their captain Tom Boyd after 21 minutes. The defender had gone for a ball up near the Vitoria byeline. He pulled up suddenly, then tried to run off the injury but within minutes was substituted with Enrico Annoni taking over. In 24 minutes, Vitor Paneira had an opening for Vitoria, but he screwed his shot wide of the target and minutes later Annoni cleared a cross for a corner when the Celtic goal was threatened. Gradually, during that first half, the Portuguese side began to move into the game but, always, Celtic were able to match them. When they did not, then the home side wasted chances as they did when Geraldo headed wide of the post 10 minutes before half-time and when Gould saved from Jose Carlos soon afterwards. Vitoria, who had been suffering themselves at the start of their domestic season, were being jeered by their own support when the second half began and when Darren Jackson came close with a shot which was deflected for a corner in the fifty-third minute the pressure built on the Portuguese. In 57 minutes, Edmilson crossed from the right and Geraldo sent a header wide of the post and again Celtic survived and their lead was intact. Six minutes later, in one of Celtic's counter-attacks, Darren Jackson made space for himself inside the Portuguese penalty box. He shot, but it was deflected for a corner and the danger was cleared. Celtic, by now, were playing patiently and intelligently. They were sitting back and absorbing the pressure and then breaking forward swiftly and in 65 minutes they should have been awarded a penalty by the German referee Michael Frohlich. When Phil O'Donnell went through in the box, the Guimaraes defender Auri threw himself to the ground, and pushed the ball away from a Celtic player with his hand. The referee indicated that he had headed the ball away and when O'Donnell complained he was booked and Celtic were awarded only a corner. However, five minutes later, with just 20 minutes remaining, justice was done. Henrik Larsson, who was a constant threat to the Portuguese, broke into the penalty box, shot low, and saw Pedro Espinha in the Portuguese goal allow the ball to squirm away from him. Before the keeper, or his defenders, could recover, Simon Donnelly pounced and struck the ball into the net and Celtic were two goals ahead and coasting towards the second round of the tournament. Annoni was booked soon after that strike, but, by now, Celtic were coasting and the 200 fans who followed them were celebrating in the half-empty stadium, as the home support were waving their white handkerchiefs in derision at their team's performance and beginning to head for the exits. Those who left missed the Vitoria goal scored four minutes from the end. Geraldo went through on Jonathan Gould and the Celtic keeper, who had been so confident before, found himself unable to stop the goal attempt this time. The ball broke beyond him for a consolation strike - but it is unlikely to matter very much in the return leg in two weeks time. However, it was unfortunate for the Scottish champions to lose that goal so late in the game after defending so strongly against the Portuguese side. Celtic are surely through, and they deserve to be through. This was a competent, professional, and emphatic performance. Beforehand the players had said that they believed things would be all right. Last night that happened. Now they will want to see the return to form continue at the weekend and the only worry they have may be the injury to their captain Tom Boyd. VITORIA GUIMARAES - Pedro Espinha, Jose Carlos, Alexandre, Auri, Quim Berto, Paneira, Costa, Paiva, Geraldo, Edmilson, Gilmar. Substitutes - Nino, Branko, Fredrick, Paulo Gomes, Riva, Kasongo. CELTIC - Gould, Boyd, Mahe, Rieper, Stubbs, Larsson, Burley, O'Donnell, Donnelly, Lambert, Jackson. Substitutes - Hannah, Annoni, McKinlay, Mackay, Kerr, McLaughlin, McBride. Referee - Michael Frohlich (Germany).

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