THREE special second half saves from stand-in keeper Dorus de Vries secured a below par Celtic the three points against Dundee this afternoon.
The Champions started the game strongly with Gamboa, making his first start of the season, particularly impressive down the right alongside Paddy Roberts.
Dundee set up to play a pressing game and in doing so restricted Celtic’s passing movements across the back four as the first half developed.
De Vries increasingly was left with little choice other than clearing the ball down the park where Celtic’s smaller players – Griffiths, McGregor and Roberts, had little joy in the aerial battles against the tall, aggressive Dundee defence.
The early promise from the Champions fizzled out and the play become disjointed as the visitors frustrated the Parkhead crowd of around 50,000 with their dogged play.
McGregor could have opened the scoring but blasted straight at Bain in the visitor’s goal. That summed up Calmac’s afternoon. It just wasn’t his day.
Five minutes before the interval Gamboa showed his determination to impress by forcing his way through the Dundee defence after a decent one two with Roberts but his shot from the edge of the area was wide of the target.
Brendan Rodgers had a job to do at half time as dropping points was a real concern at that stage as the half time scores informed the crowd that Aberdeen were winning at Easter Road. Ex-Celt Gary Mackay-Steven got that all important goal that was to be enough for the Dons.
Celtic did respond in the second half but it was more through guts than guile that made the difference, as well as some outstanding goalkeeping to deny the visitors an equaliser time after time.
Paddy Roberts led the second half charge at the other end, continually beating defender after defender before he was inevitably was brought down by cynical tackling. Yellow card after yellow card followed but Roberts always came back for more.
On the other side Scotty Sinclair was in contrast having a quieter afternoon by his high standards.
And on the hour mark, as Celtic’s pressure intensified, Leigh Griffiths had an outstanding opportunity to break the deadlock after a clever Roberts ball put his through with just Bain to beat. The striker was still cursing himself for his timid effort that summed up the first frustrating 60 minutes for the Parkhead faithful.
However a minute later Olivier Ntcham picked up a loose ball at the edge of the area and his low shot caught Bain by surprise as it found the bottom corner. It was a goal out of nothing but was most welcome nevertheless.
On the 67th with flashlights lighting up around the ground but no sound of In the Heat of Lisbon from the stands – it was that kind of afternoon, the visitors must have thought they had equalised. Dorus de Vries thought otherwise making an incredible save. But Celtic still struggled to get the ball out of the danger zone for around two minutes. Then, better late than never, the fans sang in their thousands for the Lisbon Lions.
On 77 minutes Dorus did it again. Deacon’s effort from just six yards had a goal written all over it. You’ll have to watch Sportscene to find out how the Dutchman got a fingertip to the effort to touch it over the bar. It was an outstanding save from a keeper who last played a competitive game 62 matches ago.
Celtic, principally through Paddy Roberts, threatened at the other end but without any end result. So the last gasp stop by Dorus was important to keep Celtic at the top of the league.
Paddy Roberts was named man of the match but the former Nottingham Forest keeper certainly ran him close.