ANGE POSTECOGLOU pinpointed Aaron Mooy and Filip Jota as providing the missing link in the 2-0 win over Dundee United at Tannadice as Celtic maintained their nine-point advantage at the Premiership pinnacle.
The champions had dominated a scoreless first 45 minutes, but had failed to get the ball behind keeper Mark Birighitti.
The Australian netminder was called into action to make a couple of good saves – one from Jota and another from Kyogo Furuhashi – as the visitors pounded on the door.
HIGH HOPES…Filipe Jota takes to the air as Dundee United defender Keiran Freeman looks on.
Birighitti escaped facing a penalty-kick after flattening the Japanese striker following a wayward collision in going for a high ball. Referee Don Robertson pointed to the spot, but VAR assistant Euan Anderson intervened and, after a check on the touchline monitor, the decision was reversed.
However, the Parkhead side were undeterred and were two goals ahead 11 minutes after the turnaround and on their relentless way to another crucial three points in their quest for a second successive crown under the guidance of the Greek-Australian gaffer.
Mooy set up the breakthrough goal with a sweeping cross from the right that completely bamboozled Birighitti as Jota raced in at the back post to head in from an acute angle.
And it was the Aussie World Cup midfielder who doubled the advantage via the penalty spot after Kieran Freeman, who had been booked only moments earlier, clearly handled a Jota flick in the box.
JOY BHOYS…Aaron Mooy and Filipe Jota are joined in their celebrations with Reo Hatate, Greg Taylor and Kyogo Furuhashi.
Astonishingly, match official Robertson, with a clear view, missed the incident and had to be instructed once more to have a check on the TV screen. He returned to the pitch and this time gave the award.
Mooy tucked it in the corner with a fair amount of aplomb, as he did with previous efforts against Hibs and Morton.
A beaming Postecoglou, celebrating his fiftieth league win as Hoops gaffer, said: “Aaron and Jota were really good.
“They provided that quality in the front third that was probably just the only thing missing in the first-half.
“It was a great ball in and Jota was where he should be and he scored a great goal. I was pleased for us and I thought, after that, we kicked on.”
TV STAR…Ange Postecoglou is filmed as he celebrates with the Celtic fans at Tannadice.
Postecoglou, speaking to Celtic TV, added: “There were difficult conditions and an opposition who were pretty disciplined and working hard to try and stop us, but we maintained our discipline in playing our football.
“We were probably just missing a little bit of a cutting edge in the final third in the first-half, but we got a couple of goals in the second-half and could have had a couple more.
“I thought the players handled it really well.
“We didn’t lose our composure and even though we hadn’t scored, we were certainly finding ways through and it was just a matter of maintaining that and maybe just being a bit more alert inside the box.
“I thought that’s what happened in the second-half.”
The bid for the eleventh crown in 12 years continues against Livingston at Parkhead in midweek.