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By ESPN Staff
Jul 29, 2006

SPL: Celtic begin title defence with easy win

GLASGOW, July 29 (Reuters) - Scottish champions Celtic kicked off the defence of their title with a comfortable 4-1 home win over Kilmarnock on Saturday.

Last season's runners-up Hearts were 2-1 winners at 10-man Dunfermline with goals from Czech Republic strikers Roman Bednar and Michal Pospisil.

Polish striker Maciej Zurawski fired the opener for Celtic after 25 minutes before Czech Jari Jarosik headed a fine second in the 38th.

Japanese midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura curled home a magnificent third with a free kick from more than 20 metres with 15 minutes left.

Kilmarnock pulled a goal back when Steve Naismith cracked a left foot shot high into the net from 10 metres before Zurawski hit his second with a low shot in the final minute to complete the scoring.

The win left Celtic manager Gordon Strachan feeling vindicated after mixed fortunes in pre-season.

'We must be the only club in history to start the season under pressure despite winning the league and another trophy (the League Cup),' Strachan told the BBC.

'We are not panicking. Competitive players need competitive games and we don't take friendlies seriously.'

'We gave away a couple of chances...but luckily we have a good goalkeeper and good defence. So we are very happy with the opening win.'

In an ill-tempered match against Hearts, Dunfermline had defender Andy Tod sent off. Their assistant manager Craig Robertson was also sent to the stand.

Hibernian drew 1-1 with Aberdeen, Dundee United were beaten 2-1 at home to Falkirk, while promoted St Mirren began their campaign with a 2-1 victory at Inverness Caledonian Thistle thanks to a double from striker John Sutton.

Rangers begin their campaign on Sunday against Motherwell.