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  • Griffiths secures replay for Celtic after controversial cup clash

    Griffiths secures replay for Celtic after controversial cup clash

    By: Mark Henderson on 08 Mar, 2015 17:44

  • Scottish Cup quarter-final
    Tannadice, Dundee
    Sunday, March 8, 2015

    (Ciftci pen. 45)

    (Griffiths 71)

    LEIGH Griffiths’ second-half header sealed a draw for Celtic against Dundee United after a breathless and, at times, controversial Scottish Cup quarter-final clash at Tannadice, sending the match to a replay.   

    Referee Craig Thomson dished out three red cards and awarded two penalties in a pulsating and fiery contest.

    Virgil van Dijk and Paul Paton were the first to receive their marching orders in the opening 10 minutes after a melee near the halfway line.

    United went ahead on the stroke of half-time as Nadir Ciftci scored from the spot after Aidan Connolly had went down easily in the box under Anthony Stokes’ challenge.

    The Hoops spurned the chance to level the match three minutes into the second half as Paul Dixon  was sent off for blocking Griffith’s goalbound shot with his hand. However, the striker’s penalty was saved by Radoslaw Cierzniak.

    But the Hoops hit-man achieved redemption with 19 minutes left on the clock, heading home Stefan Johansen’s cross.

    Despite a late assault on the United goal, a winner proved elusive for the Scottish champions, who will now have to tackle the Terrors in a replay at Paradise on March 18 for a semi-final spot againts either Inverness Caley Thistle or Raith Rovers.

    Emilio Izaguirre returned to the side as Ronny Deila made three changes to the team who were defeated by the Saints on Wednesday night.

    The Honduran internationalist replaced Adam Matthews in defence, the Welshman dropping out the matchday squad after picking up an injury against the Perth side.

    Cup-tied due Gary Mackay-Steven and Stuart Armstrong were unavailable to face their former employers, with Nir Bitton and James Forrest filling their positions.

    Celtic made a bright start to the game, moving the ball around crisply and looking to utilise Griffiths’ pace with quick balls over the top, without ever threatening the United goal.

    After a cagey opening, the match exploded into life in the eighth minute as both sides were reduced to 10 men.

    After Ciftci and Scott Brown had clashed, with the United player appearing to kick out at the Celtic skipper, Calum Butcher went in recklessly on van Dijk.

    As the two players tangled on the ground, the Dutchman didn’t appear to have done much wrong, but he and Paton – in what could only be a case of mistaken identity – were given their marching orders by referee Craig Thomson.

    It took some time for each team to regain any momentum as they readjusted to their new set of circumstances. The Hoops did threaten in flashes, particularly when Izaguirre and Stokes combined down the left, but the first meaningful effort fell the way of the hosts midway through the half.

    As Connolly prepared the pull the trigger inside the box, Brown made a magnificent last-ditch tackle on the forward, and when the ball broke to the edge of the box, the home side were awarded a free-kick. Ciftci took the set-piece and sent it inches wide of the post.

    Although the Hoops got into several promising positions, it took until three minutes before the break for them to test Cierzniak as Johansen drew a save from the goalkeeper with a shot from distance.   

    Both teams then hit the woodwork in space of 60 seconds. First, the Bhoys then had a narrow escape as Butcher’s shot deflected off Ryan Dow and smacked the post. Moments later, Johansen held off his marker and played in Stokes but the Irishman could only find the upright.

    With only seconds remaining until the interval, Jackie McNamara’s side took the lead as the controversy continued at Tannadice.

    Stokes made a challenge on Connolly in the box, and despite the Irishman making no contact, the United youngster hit the deck and the referee pointed to the spot. Ciftci, fortunate to still be on the pitch, converted the penalty despite Gordon’s best efforts.

    Perhaps fuelled by a sense of injustice, Celtic burst from the blocks after the restart and immediately put the Terrors on the back foot.

    And within three minutes, they were presented with a golden chance to level the match. Stokes drove towards the byline and his cutback was hammered goalwards by Griffiths, only to be halted by Dixon’s outstretched hand.

    Referee Thomson was left with no option other than to send the defender off and award another spot-kick. However, Griffiths was unsuccessful, his powerful shot brilliantly saved by Cierzniak to his left.

    Aided by their man advantage, Celtic continued to mount the pressure – Griffiths and Stokes went close, before the Hoops forced a succession of corners.

    It was one-way traffic but United did briefly threaten on the break, with Butcher’s final effort easily scooped up by Gordon.

    But then Cierzniak had be at his best to deny substitute John Guidetti, the keeper saving the striker’s venomous drive with his legs.

    Celtic’s frustration continued as Guidetti’s free-kick was charged down by the wall, before they finally broke United’s resistance 19 minutes from full-time.

    Johansen showed wonderful vision to pick out Griffiths in the box and he planted a header beyond Cierzniak into the far corner.

    Having levelled the tie, Ronnny Deila’s men drove forward in search of a winner. Bitton saw a dipping drive whistle past the post and Guidetti could only fire over following Forrest’s cutback.

    Guidetti came within a whisker of grabbing a later winner as Bitton found him in the box but some brave goalkeeping from the onrushing Cierzniak denied the striker as the game ended in stalemate, keeping the Hoops' treble dreams alive.

     CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Ambrose, Denayer, van Dijk, Izaguirre; Brown, Bitton (Fisher 93), Forrest, Johansen, Stokes (Guidetti 63); Griffiths (Scepovic 87)
    Not Used: Zaluska, Wakaso, McGregor, Henderson

    DUNDEE UNITED (4-3-3) Cierzniak, McGowan, Dillon, Fojut, Dixon; Butcher, Paton, Rankin; Connolly (Souttar 50), Ciftci, Dow (Erskine 63)
    Not Used: Szromnik, Telfer, Spittal, Bilate, Anier

    Website Man of the Match: Nir Bitton

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