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  • Dominant Celts defeat Dundee to move eight points clear

    Dominant Celts defeat Dundee to move eight points clear

    By: Mark Henderson on 22 Apr, 2015 21:40

  • Scottish Premiership
    Dens Park, Dundee
    Wednesday, April 22, 2015

    (McAlister 88)

    (Mackay-Steven 32, Van Dijk 64)

    CELTIC stretched their lead at the league summit to eight points after a dominant 2-1 victory over Dundee at Dens Park.

    Gary Mackay-Steven’s thumping strike put the Hoops ahead in the 32nd minute, before Virgil can Dijk doubled the lead in the second half with another sublime set-piece.

    As the clock ticked down, Jim McAlister struck a late consolation for the home side, but it was too late to threaten Celtic’s grip on the three points.

    After the disappointment and frustration of the extra-time loss to Inverness Caley Thistle in Sunday’s Scottish Cup semi-final, the victory was a welcome fillip for the champions and the travelling support as they put greater distance between themselves and second-placed Aberdeen.

    Stuart Armstrong and Mackay-Steven were both restored to the starting XI after being cup-tied for the Scottish Cup semi-final defeat to the Highlanders.They replaced Kris Commons and Stefan Johansen in the side, with the former named among the substitutes.

    Efe Ambrose also came in at right-back at the expense of Adam Matthews as Ronny Deila made three changes to the team that endured Hampden heartache.

    As he was at the National Stadium, James Forrest was Celtic’s main threat in the opening exchanges, looking to run at his opposite number Paul McGinn at every opportunity.

    However, space was at a premium for the winger and every player on the pitch as both teams fought for supremacy.

    As the initial frenzy settled down, however, the Hoops started to exert greater control on proceedings, fashioning the first shot on goal in the 12th minute when Armstrong’s corner was only partially cleared and Mackay-Steven volleyed over.

    It was from another Armstrong corner seven minutes later that the visitors forced Scott Bain into action as Virgil van Dijk’s towering header was comfortably held by the Dundee keeper.

    With the home side packing their defence, Jason Denayer took matters into his own hands, rifling over from 30 yards after surging forward from the back.

    Paul Hartley’s side were content to hit on the break, but aside from a promising attack down the right through Greg Stewart, which amounted to nothing, it was a strategy that failed to trouble Celtic.

    And as the half wore on, the dominant Hoops began to fashion further opportunities. A hanging cross from Ambrose was spilled by Bain, and when Forrest attempted to reach the loose ball, he went down under the challenge in the box. Referee Calum Murray was unmoved.

    Leigh Griffiths then fired into the side-netting after a cross from the enterprising Emilio Izaguirre had been knocked towards the far post.

    Just past the half-hour mark, the champions made their pressure count. After Mackay-Steven was felled in full-flight, the referee pulled the play back and awarded a free-kick. Armstrong’s set-piece was knocked back towards the edge of the box by van Dijk for the onrushing Mackay-Steven, who made no mistake.

    Moving the ball around with greater pace and purpose against an increasingly beleaguered home defence, the Bhoys threatened to add to their tally before the break - Griffiths blasted over from distance and a Mackay-Steven cutback evaded any Celtic attackers.

    And the stroke of half-time, Bain denied Forrest after Nir Bitton’s shot had ricocheted into his path inside the box.

    There was no shift in momentum as the second half got underway. A precise pass from Scott Brown released Bitton in acres of space. He found Griffiths in the box but James McPake managed to charge his shot down.

    Bitton lashed narrowly wide from 20 yards, before McPake finally registered a shot on target for the hosts, though it was a comfortable stop for Craig Gordon.

    At the other end, Bain had to be at his best to thwart Griffiths after the striker had met Forrest’s cutback with a crisp first-time shot.

    And as Dundee committed more men forward in search of a leveller, it only gave the Hoops greater gaps to exploit on the counter-attack – and they soon took full advantage.

    Another piercing breakaway from the Bhoys saw Armstrong taken out by a desperate McPake on the edge of the box. Just like he did on Sunday, van Dijk stepped up and smashed the resultant free-kick into the net, giving Bain no chance.

    In complete command of the match, Celtic continued to boss proceedings, determined not to let Hartley’s side find a glimmer of hope.

    The state of play allowed the manager to make a raft of changes, which included sending on 17-year-old Kieran Tierney for his competitive debut, a memorable moment for the Celtic Youth Academy player.

    Luka Tankulic spurned a good chance to reduce arrears for the Dens Park side, scooping a shot under pressure from Ambrose.

    McAlister did provide some late cheer for the home fans with a consolation strike as the clock ticked down, but the Bhoys held firm to seal the spoils and remain in pole position ahead of the post-split fixtures.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Ambrose, Denayer, van Dijk, Izaguirre (Tierney 81); Brown, Bitton; Mackay-Steven, Armstrong, Forrest (Commons 76); Griffiths (Guidetti 76)
    Not Used: Zaluska, Stokes, Scepovic,, Fisher,

    DUNDEE (4-2-3-1) Bain; McGinn, McPake, Konrad, Dyer; Ferry (Davidson 69), McGinn; Stewart, McAlister, Harris (Tankulic 59); Heffernan
    Not Used: Letheren, Clarkson, Black, Wighton, Colquhoun

    Website Man of the Match: Gary Mackay-Steven

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