DUNDEE UNITED 1 CELTIC 1
IT’S OFFICIAL! Celtic are the 2021/22 Premiership title winners.
Savour that sentence for a moment.
With the greatest of ironies, Ange Postecoglou’s men claimed the club’s tenth crown in 11 years at the same venue where they finally relinquished their nine-year domination of Scotland in March last year.
Okay, it was more of a stumble than a stroll at Tannadice tonight, but the main thing is the league table and it shows the Parkhead club at the pinnacle and they will get the opportunity to add a flourish to the situation on Flag Day in the east end of Glasgow on Saturday when Motherwell provide the opposition.
CHAMPIONS…Celtic players enjoy the moment with the manager taking a back seat on the left.
It was a first-half that wasn’t quite breathtaking, but Celtic picked up the pace after the interval and got the breakthrough goal from the head of Giorgos Giakoumakis following a superb right-wing chipped cross from Anthony Ralston in the 53rd minute.
The party was slightly tarnished when the hosts levelled in the 72nd minute, but credit must go to young Dylan Levitt who tried his luck from 30 yards and his hurtling, spectacular effort swept wide of Joe Hart’s right hand as it found the corner of his net.
However, the game should have been dusted long before that exceptional equaliser.
Amazingly, the first-half passed without Celtic having a solitary shot on target which certainly did not please their manager.
Reo Hatate was presented with two reasonable opportunities and blazed both waywardly over the bar and James Forrest did likewise as the first period drew to a close.
The pattern was set in only two minutes when Forrest and Matt O’Riley worked a clever corner-kick routine on the left and the ball arrived at the feet of Ralston, but he lashed his close-range effort into the crowd.
BEST FOOT FORWARD…Anthony Ralston and Dylan Levitt tussle for the ball.
As anticipated, the Hoops dominated possession, but it was an evening of some slipshod passing that saw good moves breaking down with final balls going astray.
The visitors started lively and comeback winger Forrest was eager to get involved while Liel Abada looked in the mood on the right.
In the 11th minute, the stylish O’Riley eased into a good position after a neat nutmeg on a defender on the left, but his near-post ball to Giakoumakis was blocked and scrambled clear for yet another fruitless corner-kick.
Hatate walloped one wildly over the bar in the 20th minute from outside the box after being set up by Abada and the Japanese midfielder did likewise on the half-hour mark after Giakoumakis put him in the clear.
He raced in from the left and danger threatened momentarily before he whacked the ball yards off target.
United keeper Benjamin Siegrist must have wondered if he was about to be gifted an unexpected night off against the Hoops.
PHEW…Ange Postecoglou puffs out his cheeks during at anxious moment at Tannadice.
The hosts were well drilled and offered little in the way of a threat on Hart’s goal, but there were still no excuses for some shocking sloppy passing from Postecoglou’s players which was all a bit mystifying.
There was no doubting the work ethic or the application, it was just the final pass was rarely reaching its intended target.
Postecoglou cut a frustrated figure as he marched down the touchline on the way to the dressing room at the interval.
Siegrist at last got his knees dirty five minutes after the turnaround when he had to dive full-length to punch away an angled drive from Abada that created alarm.
However, he was left helpless when the Hoops put together a sequence of passes down the right with Cameron Carter-Vickers, Callum McGregor, Ralston and Giakoumakis involved before the right-back sent a measured cross into the box from the bye-line.
IT TAKES TWO…manager Ange Postecoglou has a quiet word with captain Callum McGregor.
The Greek powerhouse stormed into the box and timed his leap to perfection as he blitzed a header past the keeper from four yards.
The goal actually stung United into a response and after some indecision between Starfelt and Carter-Vickers, young midfielder Rory McLeod fired a low shot past the diving Hart only to see the ball cannon off the base of the left-hand post.
It bounced to Nicky Clark who promptly knocked into the gaping net, but the United forward was well offside and his joy was cut short in an instant.
In the 62nd minute, ex-Celt Tony Watt got above Carter-Vickers to deflect a right-wing cross towards the Hoops goal. It was almost slow motion as Hart appeared to react too slowly to the threat and the ball hit his right-hand upright and Ralston cleared up the threat.
HEAD START…fans’ favourite Filipe Jota wears the colours after the final whistle.
A minute later, Postecoglou freshened up the team by sending on David Turnbull, Filipe Jota and Tom Rogic for Hatate, Forrest and O’Riley.
The Portuguese wing ace almost scored an outrageous goal after an electrifying run that saw him weave his way past three challenges, but he was denied when Siegrist superbly got down to his right to punch the shot to safety.
A few minutes later, Daizen Maeda joined the action as he came on for the limping Abada.
In the 72nd minute, United levelled with Levitt’s stunning strike that arrowed past the helpless Hart.
Kyogo Furuhashi came on in the second minute of stoppage time for Giakoumakis as a last throw of the dice by Postecoglou to get the victory.
SHAKERS AND MOVERS…Kyogo Furuhashi leads the Tannadice celebrations.
Just before Kyogo’s introduction, Maeda had the ideal opportunity to claim the points after a great run and pass from Taylor, but his finishing was awful as he thumped the ball wide of the target.
Maybe not the way the manager wanted the team to seal the crown, but we’ll take it.
After last season’s dire and dismal campaign, this flag triumph is a near miracle.
TEAM: Hart; Ralston, Carter-Vickers, Starfelt, Taylor; O’Riley (sub: Rogic 63), McGregor, Hatate (sub: Turnbull 63); Forrest (sub: Jota 63), Giakoumakis (sub: Kyogo 92), Abada (sub: Maeda 70).