DUNDEE 0 – 2 CELTIC
CELTIC’S relentless pursuit of the domestic treble was never in any danger of being derailed in this Scottish Cup Fifth Round tie at Dens Park.
As he did last week at Hampden, Leigh Griffiths used his head to give the Hoops an early lead against dangerous opponents who had knocked out Aberdeen at the previous stage.
Goalkeeper Scott Bain performed heroics to keep Ronny Deila’s team to a solitary one-goal advantage at the interval, but it was all over when Stefan Johansen, easily the Man of the Match, knocked in No.2 shortly after the turnaround.
Deila made one change from Hampden as he brought in James Forrest to start the game with Anthony Stokes on the bench.
Forrest looks as though he is still striving for match fitness and it was no surprise when he was hauled off in the second-half with John Guidetti taking his place.
The Swede was looking for his first goal in nine games and that delay will now stretch into double figures.
Griffiths’ opening goal arrived in the seventh minute and was a sheer delight to behold.
Unless you were Paul Hartley or anyone connected with Dundee, of course.
Nir Bitton started it with a sweeping pass out to the rampaging Mikael Lustig on the right.
His measured cross into the box was perfection, as was the timing of Griffiths’ run into the danger area. The in-form frontman raced ahead of his great personal friend James McPake, the Tayside centre-half, and he glanced an unstoppable effort away from the helpless Bain.
After that, it was one-way traffic as Celtic attempted to put the tie out of sight.
They would have managed it, too, if it hadn’t been for a performance of sheer defiance from the Dundee keeper.
In 13 minutes, it looked though Forrest had to score as he ran unguarded into the penalty area onto an excellent pass from Johansen.
However, the winger lacked composure just when he needed it most and he practically hit Bain with his effort.
Just after the half-hour mark, Kris Commons, who had been strangely quiet, screwed a shot wide from the edge of the box after he had been set up by the lively Johansen.
In the 44th minute, the Norwegian should have doubled the advantage as he got in front of the dithering McPake.
His shot, though, lacked accuracy and Bain was able to beat it to safety.
Craig Gordon, who had been a virtual spectator with half-time looming, was brought into action when a shot from ex-Celt Paul McGowan took a deflection off Virgil Van Dijk and almost wrong-footed the keeper.
The acrobatic Gordon managed to somersault to his right to paw the ball to safety.
And Griffiths was just out with a stunning volley from a Van Dijk lob that flew wide on the half-time whistle.
It was all over 65 seconds into the second-half when Celtic, who had replaced Commons with Anthony Stokes, scored a simple second goal.
Griffiths, once again, found space in the box to get his head to a neat ball from Bitton.
Bain thwarted him again with a flying save to his left, but the danger was only averted for a moment as the alert Johansen followed up to ram in the rebound.
Celtic’s name was already in the hat for the quarter-final draw at Hampden on Monday afternoon at that point.
Stokes was unlucky to be booked by referee John Beaton when he went down after bashing into McPake. The Irishman didn’t even appeal for a spot-kick, but the match official quickly flashed yellow.
There was no debate a few moments later, though, when Dundee left-back Willie Dyer went into the book after a crude challenge on Forrest.
On the hour mark, Bain lived dangerously as he flapped at a clever outside-of-the-boot flick from Johansen on the right.
The ball looked as though iust might carry over the keeper’s head, but he managed to push it onto the far post and it rebounded to safety.
Near the end, Guidetti was in a fabulous position and screaming for a pass from Emilio Izaguirre. Unfortunately, the Honduran saw his name in lights and went for glory. Bain blocked his effort.
Guidetti demanded an instant explanation and got a shrug of the shoulders from the left-back in return.
Overall, Deila will be delighted with the result and the performance.
And there is also the chance for Celtic fans to see new Bhoys Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven making their debuts against Partick Thistle at Firhill on Wednesday.
It looks as though the feelgood factor is settling on the east end of Glasgow once again.
TEAM: Gordon; Lustig (sub: Matthews 54), Denayer, Van Dijk, Izaguirre; Brown, Bitton; Forrest (sub: Guidetti 74), Johansen, Commons (sub: Stokes 46); Griffiths.