DUNDEE UTD 0 CELTIC 1
NEW Bhoy Albian Ajeti was the toast of Tayside tonight as he struck his first goal for the club following last week’s £5million arrival.
The Swiss international showed his chance-snatching qualities when he struck with the only goal of a tense encounter seven minutes from the end.
The Hoops dominated the first-half, but had nothing to show for their efforts at the break.
Odsonne Edouard smacked a ferocious shot off the post and keeper Benjamin Siegrist made two excellent saves from the French ace and Ryan Christie, but it was yet another 45 minutes of frustration for the visitors.
Newly-promoted United were clearly up for the challenge and were not timid in their approach as they contested every ball.
However, Neil Lennon’s men should have taken the lead in the 12th minute when a Christie cross was deflected into the path of Edouard who left the goalkeeper stranded with a sweeping first-time drive from12 yards that thundered off the edge of the upright and past.
In the 28th minute, Christie whipped in a dangerous right-wing free-kick that was met by Nir Bitton, but, unfortunately, the Israeli’s eight-yard header whipped over the bar.
Vasilis Barkas was virtually a spectator as the Hoops camped in United’s half, but there was still no sign of a breakthrough, despite some strong running on the flanks by Jeremie Frimpong and Greg Taylor.
Christie snapped onto a ball from Callum McGregor to sizzle in a low drive from 16 yards, but Siegrist was alert and dived to his left to make a smart save.
Mohamed Elyounoussi set up Olivier Ntcham with a chance in the box, but the midfielder’s first touch was heavy and his shot was blocked by Mark Reynolds. At this stage, it was beginning to look like a reun of the 1-1 draw against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park with United players throwing themselves at efforts from Celtic.
In the 40th minute, Elyounoussi combined with Edouard for an opportunity at an angle on the left, but once again the home keeper made a fine diving save to his left.
Referee Andrew Dallas had already booked McGregor for an accidental collision with Luke Bolton and, equally bewilderingly, awarded United a free-kick when Reynolds clattered Frimpong in the box. Baffling.
Celtic started the second-hlad in whirlwind fashion with Ntcham firing over an inviring left-wing cross that flew across of the goal with no takers.
And then Christie brought out a world-class high-flying save from Siegrist as he threw himself to his right to palm away a blistering 25-yard drive from the playmaker.
The Scotland international followed that up with two more efforts that were off target as he tried to find his range.
Lennon made his first change in the 61st minute as he sent on James Forrest for Elyounoussi.
In 74 minutes, Albian Ajeti and Kristoffer Ajer came on for Taylor and Ntcham as Lennon freshened things up.
And the switch proved to be a masterclass from the Hoops gaffer as Ajeti claimed the only goal of the game in the 83rd minute.
Celtic weaved an intricate mov down the right with Scott Brown featuring heavily before he slipped a pass to Christoe. He moved the ball to his cultured left foot and walloped on another vicious effort from 25 yards.
Siegrist once again got to the shot as he punched the ball away, but it was quickly returned into the box and, after Edouard had a shot blocked, Ajeti swooped onto the rebound to hammer in an eight-yard effort with the United defence in disarray.
Patryk Klimala joined the action in place of Edouard with four minutes remaining as the visitors played out the contest to pick up three precious points..
Now all eyes will turn to Parkhead on Wednesday and the crucial Champions League second round knock-out qualifier against Hungary’s Ferencvaros.
TEAM: Barkas; Frimpong, Jullien, Bitton, Taylor; Brown, Christie, Ntcham, Elyounoussi (sub: Forrest 61), McGregor; Edouard (sub: Klimala 86).