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Samaras double lifts Celtic as Dons hold Rangers

SoccerNews in Scottish Premier League 23 Aug 2008

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Georgios Samaras scored twice as Celtic went top of the Scottish Premier League table on goal difference at Parkhead on Saturday with a 3-0 win over Falkirk.

But Rangers dropped their first points of the season as they drew 1-1 amid controversy at Aberdeen.

The win sends Celtic top, equal on points with Rangers and Kilmarnock.

Shaun Maloney made his return at Celtic as a first-half substitute and he had a hand in all three goals.

He won the free-kick that lead to Stephen McManus' opener after 32 minutes before setting up Samaras for a second half double.

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan was delighted with his new signing.

“It was an ordinary start and we had a couple of chances and then Maloney came on and played very well. He lifted the crowd that's for sure,” said Strachan.

“I thought there were some special performances there with Nakamura ably backed by Aiden (McGeady) and Samaras.

“It's always nice to be top of the league no wonder what point of the season it is.”

Falkirk manager John Hughes took the positives from his side's performance.

“I thought we did ok until the first goal but to concede the second just before half-time gave us a mountain to climb,” said Hughes.

“I'm glad to see Maloney back up in Scotland, I just wish he had stayed in the bench a bit longer.”

Celtic handed a debut to new signing Glenn Loovens but it was his partner in central defence McManus who looked more nervous.

His slack pass in the fourth minute was intercepted by Mark Stewart at the edge of the box but Artur Boruc rushed out to block his effort.

Scott Arfield was next to have a shot in the 15th minute after he was cleverly found by a Michael Higdon pass but his effort was high and wide.

Falkirk grew in confidence and Arfield again came close at the end of a flowing passing movement from the Bairns but his angled effort in the box was superbly blocked by Boruc.

Celtic were forced into a change in the 27th minute when Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink was injured going for the ball with Lee Bullen.

Maloney, back at Celtic following his transfer from Aston Villa, replaced the Dutch striker and made an immediate impact.

The diminutive forward won a free-kick on the right following a soft foul after 30 minutes. Shunsuke Nakamura floated the free-kick into the box and Celtic captain McManus' header found its way into the net despite Robert Olejnik getting a hand to it.

Celtic increased their lead in the 44th minute and Scottish international Maloney was involved again.

He played a beautifully threaded through ball to Greek striker Samaras who rounded the keeper and rolled the ball into the net.

Samaras scored his second of the day in the 67th minute after good link-up play with Maloney.

At Pittodrie, Aberdeen and Rangers shared the points with a 1-1 draw.

Rangers took the lead in the first-half when David Weir fired a powerful header past Jamie Langfield from a Kevin Thomson free-kick but Derek Young equalised on the stroke of half-time.

DaMarcus Beasley thought he had snatched a win for Rangers with two minutes to go but his effort was controversially ruled offside.

Kilmarnock joined Celtic and Rangers at the top of the SPL with a 1-0 win at home to Hamilton thanks to a Manuel Pascali goal.

Don Cowie fired Inverness into the lead at the Caledonian Stadium but Hibernian took a share of the points through a Colin Nish equaliser.

Hearts took all three points at Tynecastle with a 2-1 over St Mirren. Jamie Driver put Hearts ahead but St Mirren equalised through Billy Mehmet before Michael Stewart clinched the win from the penalty spot.

Motherwell and Dundee United drew 1-1 at Fir Park with a debut goal for John Sutton before United captain Lee Wilkie equalised.

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