Two early goals by Gary Hooper and Victor Wanyama were enough to overcome Dundee United at Celtic Park today but a cracking strike by John Rankin early in the second half ensured the table toppers had to fight all the way.
Anthony Stokes had an early opportunity to test Pernis in the United goal with a free kick, as is often the case with Anthony’s free kicks, he struck the defensive wall. United had the best chance of the opening exchanges after 7 minutes but Fraser Forster denied Garry Kenneth at his near post after a goalmouth scramble. The visitors kept the pressure on for the next few minutes but were to concede soon thereafter.
Thomas Rogne cleared his lines with a defensive header which Stokes won with an aerial challenge and reacted first to prod the ball forward to an alert Gary Hooper. Hooper made the most of the space available, opened his body and placed an immaculately measured shot inside the right post to put Celtic ahead.
Five minutes later Georgios Samaras earned hearty applause throughout the stadium for a robust challenge on Willo Flood before forcing Pernis to turn a shot behind. The resulting corner was played short to Izaguirre who through a deep and high cross into the box. Victor Wanyama was first to react and seemed to have jumped early but he somehow managed to hover a millisecond long enough to be level with the ball when he met it before propelling it high into the top left corner of the goal.
Shortly before half time Stokes had another opportunity from a free kick. John Rankin broke early from the wall, raised his arm and blocked inside the penalty box. Referee, Winter, penalised the player for breaking the wall and ordered a retake, not a penalty. Stokes had two opportunities to make the points safe within a minute of the break. He met a Mulgrew corner on the six yards line with a glancing header that went narrowly passed the far post. Pernis then denied an excellent Stokes strike with a fine save.
The Celtic defence had not lost a goal in eight domestic games before today and could do little about the goal that put United back in the contest. John Rankin struck from 26 yards, the ball clipped the inside of Fraser Forster’s right hand post and bounced in. Shortly before the hour mark John Daly had Dundee United’s best chance of the game but Forster was equal to his header.
Georgios Samaras had Celtic’s best two chances of the second half. The first a diving header from a Matthews cross which was saved by Pernis. The second a cross from Matthews which Samaras pulled down with his chest before shooting over.
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