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Football | Europe

Gary Hooper © Action Images

Hooper at the double



Gary Hooper didn't let the speculation surrounding his future at Celtic impact on his performance as his double helped fire the Scottish Premier League leaders to a 4-0 win over Dundee United on Tuesday.

The news that Norwich City had an improved offer for the striker turned down didn't seem to play on his mind as he handed Celtic a 19th minute lead when he finished a well-worked move he had started in his own half.

Celtic then added to their first half advantage when Kenyan international Victor Wanyama headed home Mikel Lustig's cross in the 33rd minute.

A quiet second half was brought to life by Hooper, who has rejected a new contract offer from Celtic, in the 80th minute when he shot past Radoslaw Cierzniak from a tight angle for his 22nd of the season and his fifth goal in three games.

The in-demand striker, watched from the stands by Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, then set up substitute Scott Brown to fire home a fourth in the 84th minute as the Hoops moved 12 points clear at the top of the Scottish Premier League.

"I thought going forward we were breathtaking at times," Celtic manager Neil Lennon said.

"We could have been a goal down and probably should have been but I'm not too sure that would have changed the mentality of the team tonight.

"There was a real intensity about us and ruthlessness to score goals."

His Dundee United counterpart Peter Houston rued his side's early missed chances.

"You are always wanting when you come here to try and take the chances that you do create and if we did score first it would have put them on the back foot a bit," he said.

"Even at 2-0 I felt Celtic were getting a wee bit edgy at one stage but they got the third goal and the game was over and done with."

In a frantic start both sides had chances to take the lead in the opening 10 minutes.

The first opportunity fell to Georgios Samaras when he connected with Charlie Mulgrew's free-kick but the Greek striker sent his header off target.

Almost immediately a break-away move saw Gary Mackay-Stevens exchange passes with Johnny Russell and burst into the Celtic box but the winger dragged his angled shot just wide.

However, it was the much sought after Hooper who opened the scoring in a well-worked counterattack.

After a United corner was cleared to the edge of the box the English striker knocked the ball out to Lassad.

The Tunisian international broke over the half-way and played a perfect diagonal ball to Samaras who played an identical ball for Hooper at the back post to fire under Cierzniak from close range.

Celtic then added to their advantage when Mulgrew played a short corner to Lustig and Wanyama rose highest to connect with his cross from the right to bullet a header past Cierzniak from six yards.

On a night where all the attention was focussed on Hooper the striker didn't disappoint and added a second when he used his heel to flick a square ball from Samaras between his legs and past Cierzniak from a couple of yards out.

With five minutes remaining Hooper set up Brown to make it 4-0 as he picked out the Celtic captain in the box and he smashed a left-foot strike beyond the helpless keeper.

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