CELTIC 2 – 0 DUNDEE UNITED
ONE down and two to go! Ronny Deila is still on course for a breathtaking clean sweep of domestic honours after a professional demolition job on Dundee United in the League Cup Final showdown at Hampden.
The SPFL championship is in sight and Celtic take on the Tannadice outfit again in the Scottish Cup quarter-final on Wednesday at Parkhead as they move ever closer to another Cup Final.
No wonder the Norwegian was beaming after this afternoon’s exciting, enthralling encounter where goals from Kris Commons and James Forrest sealed Jackie McNamara’s club’s fate. The Hoops could even afford to squander a penalty-kick from Forrest while the Tayside outfit didn’t do themselves any favours when they had skipper Sean Dillon sent off from a reckless lunge at Emilio Izaguirre.
Deila, after being presented with the League Cup by mega Celtic fan Rod Stewart, said: “This makes it worthwhile.
“The dream, of course, is to also win the Premier Championship and the Scottish Cup. I have always said we are the best team in the country and we should aim high.
“And we are all allowed to dream, are we not?”
The Hoops were almost in dreamland as early as the third minute when Virgil Van Dijk climbed highest in a packed penalty box to get his head to a left-wing corner-kick from Stefan Johansen.
Goalkeeper Radoslaw Cierzniak, a hero against Celtic in the 1-1 draw last week, was frozen on the spot as the ball soared towards the corner, but Dillon managed to get his head to the effort to knock it to safety.
And six minutes later, Leigh Griffiths should have punished a dreadful passback from Callum Morris.
The defender was wayward with a ball to his keeper and Griffiths read his intentions. He nipped in ahead of Cierznak, but lacked composure at the crucial moment and screwed a left-foot shot into the sidenetting.
In the 17th minute, it was Craig Gordon to the rescue when Efe Ambrose was slow to react to a ball delivered in from the right.
As the Nigerian defender dithered, United midfielder John Rankin surged in front of him, but Gordon was brave as he threw himself at the ball and managed to smother it.
Van Dijk, cool and deliberate, as usual, ambled into attack and, with United’s defenders expecting him to pass wide to Izaguirre, he took the ball on and cracked a 25-yarder at goal which swept just wide of the upright with the goalie scrambling across his line.
Two minutes before the half-hour mark, Celtic claimed the all-important barrier-breaking goal. And it was all down to some perseverance by Anthony Stokes on the left.
He saw his first effort into the box cleared, but he followed up to try again with a neat dink into the danger area.
Commons knocked it goalwards and it took a nick off Jaroslaw Fujot. Cierzniak somersaulted to his left to frantically push the ball onto the upright.
The Pole was out of luck when the rebound went straight back to Commons and this time the cultured midfielder rattled the ball home from an angle.
Ryan McGowan’s name was first to go into referee Bobby Madden’s book for a reckless challenge on Scott Brown in the 34th minute.
A minute later, Commons fizzed in a low right foot drive from 20 yards that looked destined for the keeper’s bottom right hand corner until he managed to get a fingertip to the ball to edge it past the post.
United claimed a penalty-kick in the 36th minute when Ryan Dow went down in the box after a challenge from Brown, but the match official was having none of it and waved play on.
Five minutes after the turnaround, Mario Bilate, a battering-ram of a centre-forward, outmuscled Jason Denayer as he chased a through ball, but his finishing shot was well held by the sprawling Gordon.
In the 56th minute, Dillon saw red and, in all honesty, the Tannadice captain could have little complaint. He must have taken a rush of blood to the head as he threw himself feet first into a challenge on Izaguirre. It was a dangerous challenge that could have inflicted severe damage on the Honduran’s exposed ankle. Thankfully, he recovered, but only after Dillon had been told he was taking no further part in the proceedings.
United were obviously aggrieved and it was Paul Paton’s turn to go into the book after he had scythed down Ambrose.
Johansen had the opportunity to kill the game as a contest when he nicked ahead of the United defence to get a touch on a cute left wing cross from Griffiths. His effort beat the keeper, but, unfortunately, the ball kissed the outside of the post and bounced to safety.
Deila sent on John Guidetti and Forrest for Griffiths and Commons in the 69th minute as he freshened up the team for the final moments.
Three minutes later, Johansen picked out Denayer smack in front of goal, but the Belgian’s elevation was out and he sent a header soaring harmlessly over the crossbar.
In the 79th minute it was all over bar the shouting as the champions struck a second.
It was a sweetly-worked goal with Johansen passing to Guidetti who, unselfishly, teed up Forrest and he swept the ball past the helpless keeper.
Remarkably, it was Forrest’s first goal of the season and his timing couldn’t be faulted.
However, his accuracy from the spot certainly could in the 85nd minute after he had been hauled down by Paul Dixon.
There was little argument from the opponents as the referee gave the award. Guidetti was eager to take responsibility, but Forrest refused to hand over the ball.
He might have wondered about the wisdom of his decision moments later. His penalty-kick was nothing short of appalling and the keeper hardly had to move as he blocked it and, just to compound his error, Forrest followed up to prod the ball wide of the target from two yards.
However, it didn’t matter at the end of the day as the glittering prize was adorned with green and white ribbons.
Dundee United’s manager Jackie McNamara lacked class in his post match interview by failing to congratulate Celtic on winning the trophy. The Tannadice side have a reputation earned over many years for being a good footballing side. The former Celtic captain seems to have added a nasty edge with these horrific tackles. Pile on the misery in midweek, Celtic!
Now the focus is on the league title and the Scottish Cup. The treble is well and truly on.
Dreams, as Ronny Deila pointed out, can come true!
TEAM: Gordon; Ambrose, Denayer, Van Dijk, Izaguirre; Bitton (sub: Henderson 82), Brown; Commons (sub: Forrest 69), Johansen, Stokes; Griffiths (sub: Guidetti 69).Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.