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  • Dens Park draw for champions

    Dens Park draw for champions

    By: Mark Henderson on 31 Aug, 2014 14:33

  • Scottish Premiership

    Dens Park, Dundee

    Sunday, August 31, 2014

    DUNDEE...1

    McPake 1

    CELTIC...1

    Griffiths 54

    LEIGH Griffiths’ second-half strike salvaged a share of the spoils for Celtic against Dundee as both sides fought out an absorbing encounter at Dens Park.

    The striker fired home via the aid of a deflection nine minutes into the second half after James McPake had headed the home side ahead with only 51 seconds on the clock.

    There were chances for each side to claim maximum reward, with the Hoops’ best effort coming from Anthony Stokes, who fired off the upright in the closing stages.

    Ronny Deila had made three changes from the team that lost to NK Maribor on Tuesday night, with Adam Matthews, Jason Denayer and Kris Commons all restored to the side at the expense of Mikael Lustig, Virgil van Dijk and Charlie Mulgrew as the Hoops targeted a return to winning ways.

    But they made the worst possible start as the hosts opened the scoring inside the first 60 seconds. Having won a corner straight from the kick off, the ball was swung into the box by Philip Roberts and McPake’s header crept in at the far post.

    Gradually, the Bhoys recovered from this setback and began to fashion some openings at the other end.

    Commons lobbed over from an acute angle, before Anthony Stokes showed terrific determination to hold off James McPake and Thomas Konrad and earn a sight of goal. However, he couldn’t generate sufficient power in the shot to trouble Kyle Letheren.

    Commons and Stokes had made a lively start in attack, and Commons was crowded out as he attempted to reach a return pass after a neat interchange around the box. The same player then hit a weak shot into Letheren’s hands after a promising move down the right.   

    However, Celtic couldn’t establish the kind of control or authority they would have desired on proceedings against the Scottish Premiership new boys, who were playing with real confidence and conviction.

    Sensing further reward they constantly harassed Celtic in possession and countered with pace and purpose. After one such breakaway, Peter MacDonald was inches away from connecting with Philip Roberts’ inviting delivery

    The striker then tried to do it all himself as he danced away from Efe Ambrose in the box but Denayer and Stefan Johansen managed to halt his progress just as he took aim.  

    Roberts’ enterprise down the right had been a potent weapon, and only an outstanding stop from Craig Gordon denied him doubling Dundee’s lead, the keeper tipping his rasping drive onto the post.

    Moments earlier, a delightful pass from Callum McGregor had sent Stokes scampering clear in the box but the Irishman elected to cut the ball back instead of pulling the trigger and Paul McGinn was able to clear.     

    Stokes saw another shot easily held by Letheren, before MacDonald came close to number two for the Dens Park outfit as he outpaced Efe Ambrose chasing a long ball. However, Gordon had raced quickly off his line and his presence forced the Dundee No.9 to blast over.

    Leigh Griffiths was introduced for Jo Inge Berget as Celtic looked to turn the tide and they would have been level before the break had Letheren not made a terrific reaction save from Ambrose’s glancing header.  

    Celtic noticeably upped the tempo as the second half got underway, quickly forcing the hosts on the defensive.

    Ambrose’s cutback fell for Emilio Izaguirre and his shot was blocked and McGrgeor experienced a similar fate after he had skipped away from one opponent in the box.

    Eventually, the pressure paid off. Commons picked out Griffiths on the edge of the area and his low effort took a slight deflection on its way to nestling in the far corner.

    With Commons, Stokes and Griffiths all linking up to good effect, the home defence was being stretched and forced into several last-ditch challenges and clearances.

    After another Griffiths shot was deflected wide, substitute Eoghan O’Connell wasn’t far away when he met Commons’ corner.

    Celtic were now the dominant force but as they committed more men forward there was always the possibility of being caught on the break.

    Denayer had to make a timely intervention to deflect Martin Boyle’s shot wide just minutes after he had entered the fray, and then the substitute was thwarted by superb stop from Gordon.

    The forward had injected some spark back into Paul Hartley’s side and he spurned a golden chance to claim three points, dragging a shot just beyond the far post after he had evaded Denayer.

    Back came the Bhoys - Stokes hammered against the upright and Letheren had to save on the stretch from Griffiths' thumping drive from distance. Luka Tankulic also had two late efforts to win the match for the Dees as an entertaining match finished all-square.  

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Matthews (O’Connell 46), Ambrose, Denayer, Izaguirre; Kayal (Bitton 69) Johansen; McGregor, Commons, Berget (Griffiths 42); Stokes

    Not Used: Zaluska, Henderson, Pukki, Wakaso

    DUNDEE (4-4-2) Letheren; McGinn, McPake, Konrad, Irvine; Roberts (Boyle 66), McAlister, McGowan, Stewart; Harkins (Ferry 58); MacDonald (Tankulic 58)

    Not Used: Bain, Davidson, McBride, Wighton

    Website Man of the Match: Anthony Stokes

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