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  • Griffiths hat-trick seals Celtic victory over Dundee United

    Griffiths hat-trick seals Celtic victory over Dundee United

    By: Martin Dalziel on 26 Apr, 2015 14:27

  • SPFL Premiership
    Tannadice
    Sunday, April 26, 2015

    DUNDEE UNITED...0

    CELTIC...3
    (Griffiths 47, 65, 84)

    A SECOND-HALF hat-trick from Leigh Griffiths gave Celtic a 3-0 victory over Dundee United and restored the Hoops' eight-point lead at the top of the Premiership table with just four games remaining.

    A well-taken finish two minutes into the second-half from the striker was added to with a close-range strike and a late penalty to give the Bhoys a solid win on the road and see the front man take his goal tally to 18 for the season.

    The goals came after a lacklustre first half which saw the Celts struggle to create many openings against a well-drilled United side, but the win was merited with a dominant second-half performance.

    Ronny Deila made three changes for the second trip to Dundee in the space of a week, with Stefan Johansen, Kris Commons and Adam Matthews all coming in for Gary Mackay-Steven, James Forrest and Efe Ambrose following Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Paul Hartley’s Dundee side.

    The Hoops started the game in controlled fashion, winning the ball back from United after an early period of possession from the home side before easing into their passing style in the opening 10 minutes.

    Jackie McNamara’s side were in confident mood, however, and they looked to expose Celtic on the break. An early foray forward from Charlie Telfer won the home side a free-kick in a good area but they couldn’t capitalise on the chance.

    Izaguirre then got a shot away at the other end after collecting a pass at the left of the box but he pulled his effort wide. Virgil van Dijk then rose well to meet Stuart Armstrong’s corner from the left but his header curled over.

    The best chance in the early stages fell to United and Craig Gordon had to make a fingertip save to push a thumping drive from Robbie Muirhead over the crossbar.

    Celtic also had good chances to take the lead at the other end when Commons had a shot deflected in the area before van Dijk was denied from close-range.

    Scott Brown was booked just after the half-hour mark for a tackle on Rankin but the Bhoys sparked back into life on 35 minutes, with a Commons volley blocked before the deflected effort fell to Griffiths, who won a corner.

    If the first half was disappointing for the Bhoys they more than made up for it within two minutes of the restart when they strode into the lead after a beautiful flowing move.

    The Hoops retained the ball from kick-off and spread it out wide to Armstrong on the left flank. He drove towards the box and played the ball to Johansen 20 yards out.

    The Norwegian controlled and laid it off to Brown in the area before he returned it to Johansen, who looked up and saw Griffiths in space at the right-hand side of the box.

    The striker took a touch to compose himself before riffling home with his right foot beyond Cierzniak to bag his 16th goal of the season.

    The Polish keeper then pulled out one of the saves of the season when he stopped a Commons header from six yards with one hand when the ball seemed destined for the top corner. Cierzniak then denied Celtic again when a clever dummy from Commons allowed Johansen to shoot inside the box.

    United were not out, however, and forced Denayer to make a saving tackle at full stretch to flick a cross from the left out the box.

    The Hoops went back on the attack and an intelligent turn from Commons outside the box drew a foul but there was unfortunately no magic from van Dijk this time, who scored from a similar area against Dundee on Wednesday.

    Gary Mackay-Steven then replaced Armstrong as Ronny Deila aimed to test the tiring legs of the Terrors players. The winger got straight into action but it was Griffiths who added to Celtic's lead just moments later.

    Commons swung in a corner from the left which Morris headed on to his own post before it fell to the feet of the Hoops striker in the six-yard box.

    He prodded the ball over the line before Cierzniak clawed it back out, only for Griffiths to place the ball beyond the keeper again, leaving the goal in no doubt.

    The action was not over, however, as Mackay-Steven rattled a shot off the crossbar before a surging run from the winger was halted unfairly by Rankin as he bore down on goal and the referee awarded a penalty with five minutes left.

    Commons unselfishly gave the spot-kick to Griffiths who, after a prolonged wait, stroked the ball confidently beyond Cierzniak and secured his hat-trick as the Hoops took another step closer to the title.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Matthews (Ambrose 68), Denayer, van Dijk, Izaguirre; Brown, Bitton; Commons, Johansen (Forrest 71), Armstrong (Mackay-Steven 60); Griffiths.
    Not used: Zaluska, Guidetti, Scepovic, Tierney

    DUNDEE UNITED (4-2-3-1) Cierzniak; McGowan, Fojut, Morris, Dixon; Souttar, Rankin; Erskine (Anier 85), Telfer (Coote 68), Spittal (Connolly 79); Muirhead.
    Not used: Szromnik, Dillon, Spark, Smith.

    Website man of the match: Leigh Griffiths

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