DUNDEE 0 CELTIC 1
SCOTT BROWN was Celtic’s matchwinner with his second goal of the season as the spectre of Inverness hung over Dens Park this afternoon.
Brendan Rodgers’ side were miles ahead of Paul Hartley’s Dundee in terms of possession, but, with four minutes added-on time, some thoughts must have drifted towards Caley Thistle’s remarkable last-gasp equaliser in the 2-2 draw a fortnight ago after the Highlanders had been played off the pitch.
This time, though, the Hoops maintained their concentration to the last kick and deservedly took three points back to Parkhead.
But Rodgers will be fully aware that his team should be killing off the opposition while dominating for most of the 90 minutes.
As it was, the only goal of the often-tense encounter came two minutes after the interval and was expertly snapped up by captain Brown.
He began the move with a slick pass into the tracks of a curiously-subdued Moussa Dembele, but, after skipping past one defender, the ball got stuck under his boot and it looked as though the chance had gone.
However, Scott Sinclair got a touch to place the ball neatly in front of Brown, who cleverly followed up his initial pass to drive a left-foot effort into the vacant net with keeper Scott Bain out of position.
That should have signalled a comfortable second-half, but, although Craig Gordon wasn’t required to make a single save, there was always the nagging thought about what happened in the Highland capital and the careless loss of two points.
Kolo Toure was given a rest after his exertions in the dramatic 3-3 draw with Manchester City in midweek. Jozo Simunovic came in to partner Erik Sviatchenko in central defence.
As expected, Celtic were on the offensive right from the off and came within inches of getting the breakthrough goal in the third minute after a cleverly-worked free-kick 20 yards out.
Tom Rogic was given the opportunity, but his low left-foot drive took a nick off a defender in the wall and swept wide with Bain breathing a sigh of relief.
Five minutes later, the Dundee shotstopper made an excellent high-flying save to deny Sinclair another spectacular goal to add to his impressive list.
The ex-Aston Villa attacker cut in from the left onto his favoured right foot and let fly from 25 yards. Bain took off on a dramatic swoop across his line to touch the ball wide of the left-hand upright.
In the 13th minute, the Hoops claimed a penalty-kick that most people in Dens Park were convinced was a stonewaller – with the unfortunate exception of referee Andrew Dallas, son of Hugh, and his assistant Gavin Harris.
Cammy Kerr, booked minutes earlier for a foul on Rogic, threw himself into Erik Sviatchenko’s back as the Dane tried to take control of the bouncing ball. The defender went down in a heap in a tangle of legs, but neither Dallas nor Harris thought the awkward challenge warranted a spot-kick and, unbelievably, waved play on.
Nine minutes later, Rogic displayed some superb technique as he sent a left-footed free-kick over the defensive wall from an angle, but Bain read the situation perfectly and raced across his line to claw the ball down just under the crossbar.
Sinclair looked in the mood right from the start and he almost got the opener in first-half stoppage time with a powerful drive, but again Bain beat the effort to safety.
Then came Brown’s barrier-breaking blast for his second of the season – his first coming in the crucial 5-2 victory over Hapoel Be’er Sheva in the Champions League qualifier at Parkhead. Overall, it was the captain’s 36th goal in his Hoops career.
In the 64th minute, Dembele almost doubled the advantage when he latched onto a scuffed effort from Sinclair, but he hit his attempt into the ground and it bounced over the bar with Bain totally bamboozled.
Rogic made way for Leigh Griffiths a minute later as Rodgers moved Sinclair into a central role. In the 69th minute, Sinclair let fly from the edge of the box as he tried to stretch his goalscoring run in the league to the seventh game. Bain denied him with a dive to his right and a comfortable catch.
Griffiths looked desperate to get on the scoresheet and raced in from the right, but his left-foot effort zipped harmlessly into the sidenet.
Forrest then made way for Patrick Roberts in the 74th minute and Sinclair ended his goalscoring streak five minutes from time when Rodgers replaced him with Stuart Armstrong.
A dogged Dundee huffed and puffed, but Celtic, with Simunovic and Sviatchenko dovetailing well in the heart of the rearguard, rarely gave them the opportunity of getting Gordon in their sights.
So, no horrendous slip-up in the fading moments and another three welcome points in the bag.
The international break is up next, but the Hoops’ next following games are all in Glasgow in three different competitions.
First, there is Motherwell at Parkhead in the Premiership on October 15 and Bundesliga giants Borussia Monchengladbach arrrive for the Champions League confrontation four nights later.
Then Rodgers and Co can turn their attention to the Betfried League Cup and a semi-final confrontation with Sevco Rangers at Hampden.
Three back-to-back wins would be well appreciated!
Thanks to Dundee FC for issuing CQN with a matchday photography pass.
TEAM: Gordon; Lustig, Simunovic, Sviatchenko, Tierney; Brown, Bitton; Forrest (sub: Roberts 74), Rogic (sub: Griffiths 65), Sinclair (sub: Armstrong 85); Dembele.