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  • Five-star Celts edge closer to title

    Five-star Celts edge closer to title

    By: Mark Henderson on 01 May, 2015 21:57

  • Scottish Premiership
    Celtic Park
    Friday, May 1, 2015

    (Griffiths 30, Brown 37, Commons pen. 71, Forrest 77, Bitton 90)


    CELTIC stand on the brink of a fourth successive title after destroying Dundee 5-0 in Paradise to move 11 points clear of second-placed Aberdeen. And the Hoops could be confirmed as champions as early as tomorrow (Saturday) should Aberdeen fail to defeat Dundee United at Tannadice.

    Ronny Deila’s side certainly played with the authority of champions as they swept aside the Dens Park side with a dazzling display of vibrant, attacking football, delivering a Friday night football feast for the home support.

    Leigh Griffiths deservedly headed the Hoops in front from the outstanding Emilio Izaguirre’s cross before Scott Brown doubled the advantage before half-time.

    Kris Commons added number three from the penalty spot after substitute Darnell Fisher had been fouled by Stephen McGinn in the box and James Forrest slotted home a fourth five minutes later.

    Nir Bitton reserved the best goal of the night until the closing seconds of the match, crashing a shot into the top corner from long range.
    Ronny Deila had made two changes to the team that dispatched Dundee United at Tannadice last week, restoring Gary Mackay-Steven and Efe Ambrose to the starting XI at the expense of Stuart Armstrong and Adam Matthews.

    It was through the promptings of left-back Izaguirre that the Hoops made their first incursions towards the visitors’ goal.

    In the fifth minute, the Honduran played in Scott Brown, whose low cross flashed across goal, before he found Griffiths in a similar position with a crisp pass, the striker firing wide from an acute angle.

    Similar to Kilmarnock’s conservative approach in Celtic’s last home fixture, Dundee had set up defensively, encamped across their 18-yard box whenever the home side attacked.

    But the Hoops managed to bypass this sea of dark blue shirts with a slick counter-attack. Kris Commons’ long pass found Griffiths racing down the left. He fed Mackay-Steven, who in turn supplied Johansen, but the Norwegian couldn’t keep his curling shot on target.

    As the Dens Park side continued to sit back, Virgil van Dijk was tempted to try his luck from distance, the defender shooting wide.

    Ronny Deila’s side should then have had a chance to break the deadlock from the penalty spot after Kevin Thomson sent Johansen sprawling in the box, but referee Bobby Madden was unmoved.

    Celtic’s frustrations were growing but on the half-hour mark they broke the visitors’ resistance – and the scorer was no surprise. Izaguirre looked up and delivered a wonderful cross from the left and Griffiths rose above his markers and powered a header beyond Scott Bain.

    Van Dijk had another piledriver charged down, before Luka Tankulic’s ambitious long-range effort at the other end was comfortably gathered by Craig Gordon.

    In the 37th minute, the Hoops doubled their lead with a well-worked goal. Griffiths and Commons combined and the latter picked out Brown in the box. The captain took a touch before burying a shot into the corner.

    Celtic could now afford to play with freedom and flair and they threatened to add to their tally as half-time approached.

    The lively Griffiths came close to capitalising on some hesitant defending from Thomas Konrad and Bain, before Izaguirre saw a shot blocked after Mackay-Steven had attempted to wriggle clear in the box.

    From the resultant corner, Commons collected a return pass from Izaguirre nutmegged a defender on the byline and blasted over.

    Although Paul Hartley’s side show greater ambition after the restart, the Hoops continued to boss possession. The away side did have the first effort of the half, with Willie Dyer pulling the trigger from distance but Gordon was never troubled.

    Van Dijk headed wide from Commons’ corner and then the Dutchman curled a shot wide after thrusting inside from the left as the Bhoys started to rediscover their cutting edge.  

    On the hour-mark, Mackay-Steven did well to dig out a cross from the left which Konrad could only partially clear. It fell to Johansen who fired over.

    Bain then had to be out quickly to deny Mackay-Steven as he chased a through ball, before the manager made a double change, sending on Forrest and Fisher for Johansen and Ambrose.

    Dundee’s defence was creaking again as van Dijk was within inches of Izaguirre’s cross and Brown had a goal ruled out after Griffiths was deemed to have fouled Bain.

    But then the substitutes had the desired impact. Fisher, showing plenty of enterprise since coming on, was pushed in the back by Stephen McGinn as he chased a ball into the box. Referee Madden pointed to the spot and Commons confidently converted.

    Paradise was in full voice and they were given further reason to cheer when Forrest added number four with 13 minutes left on the clock. An incisive Celtic breakaway saw Commons send the winger scampering clear and he clinically slid the ball into the far corner beyond Bain.

    Commons, Izaguirre and Mackay-Steven had further efforts, before Tankulic drilled wide for the visitors.

    But the last word went the way of a rampant Celtic and Bitton in particular. Picking up the ball 30 yards from goal, he took aim and lashed home a stunning strike as Bain stood rooted to the spot.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Ambrose (Fisher 65), Denayer, van Dijk, Izaguirre; Brown, Bitton; Commons, Johansen (Forrest 65), Mackay-Steven; Griffiths (Scepovic 75)
    Not Used: Zaluska, Guidetti, Stokes, Armstrong,

    DUNDEE (4-5-1) Bain; P. McGinn, McPake, Konrad, Dyer; Harris (Colquhoun 61) Ferry (Heffernan 71, Clarkson 90), S. McGinn, Thomson, McAlister; Tankulic
    Not Used: Letheren, Irvine, Kostadin Gadzhalov, Harkins

    Website Man of the Match: Emilio Izaguirre


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