Celtic were held to a frustrating draw against Dundee United this afternoon, the crossbar three times preventing the Bhoys from picking up where they left off in midweek and returning to winning ways in the league.
Knowing the importance of avenging last weekend’s SPFL defeat at Livingston, Ange Postecoglou made just one change to the starting XI which brushed aside Raith Rovers in the Premier Sports Cup on Thursday night. Josip Juranovic came in for Adam Montgomery at left back, an alteration that brought added international experience to the backline.
The visitors were forced to switch three players from the side that lost to Hibernian last time out. Former Celt Charlie Mulgrew was denied a return to his old stomping ground due to injury, whilst Marc McNulty and Trevor Carson missed out for the same reason.
Celtic started the brighter, testing the Terrors’ defence with intense pressure in the opening exchanges. Anthony Ralston got the better of his man in a duel on the right touchline and his powerful cross found Ajeti, who couldn’t quite get above the ball to direct it goalwards. Moments later, the opposite full back was involved in attacking play as Juranovic hit a rasping shot, which was too hot for Siegrist to handle in the Dundee United goal, whilst Rogic’s effort was blocked on the follow up.
The visitors demonstrated that they could be a threat on the counter, but Postecoglou’s men enjoyed the bulk of possession and continued to push for an opener. That goal arrived in the 15th minute, when Jota floated a cross to the back post and Liel Abada got across his man to head into the back of the net.
GOOAL! Jota with the assist for Liel Abada’s goal against Dundee United!
— Benfica Youth 2 (@SLBenficaYouth) September 26, 2021
Barely a minute had elapsed before Dundee United showed that their counter attacking abilities were a serious threat, as Ian Harkes performed brilliant acrobatics to bullet home an exceptional header.
— Ewan Smith (@ewansmithpr) September 26, 2021
Undeterred, the Hoops immediately sought to hit back. Another Jota cross found its way to Abada, seconds after restarting play, and the Israeli showed great composure to square to Ajeti, who somehow managed to blast over the bar from a yard out!
That miss almost came back to bite Celtic, when, in the 22nd minute, Tom Rogic fired an ill judged pass in the direction of Starfelt. The defender was a less than grateful recipient of the pass as he was robbed of possession by Nicky Clark, and Carter-Vickers was extremely fortunate not to concede a penalty with his subsequent challenge just as the striker looked set to put the away team in front. Although, the decision served justice to some degree as James McCarthy had been the victim of a horrendous tackle ten minutes prior, yet Fuchs was only shown a yellow card.
This topsy-turvy tussle had fans on the edge of their seats and it soon took another twist as Juranovic appeared to go down clutching his hamstring. The Croatian joins Celtic’s ongoing list of casualties and he was replaced by Montgomery in the 25th minute. A downcast figure, he barely had time to take his seat in the dugout before Jota drove inside from the wing and unleashed a shot on his favourable right foot. Siegrist did well to tip the ball round the post on that occasion.
Postecoglou offered applause and gestured for calm, a signal that was taken on board by his players. Indeed, Celtic settled into their stride and created another great opportunity before the break. Once again, Jota was the architect, driving up the line this time and smashing a left footed shot, which was astonishingly scooped over the bar from the goal line. Seconds later, Ralston drove a tantalising delivery across the face of goal, looking aghast that there were no takers. All seemed to be inconsequential, when David Turnbull blasted a thunderous shot from outside the box on the stroke of half time, yet it cruelly crashed against the underside of the crossbar with the goalkeeper stranded. Albian Ajeti arrived on the follow up, but the Swiss striker fouled the opposing centre half before converting.
With 60,000 fans using the interval to catch their collective breaths, the second half began in similar fashion. Rogic broke clear and passed to Abada, who attempted to chip the goalkeeper with a clever finish. The Israeli’s effort landed on the roof of the net, whilst at the other end Dundee United went close from a corner.
By the time that 50 minutes were on the clock, Ilmari Niskanen almost scored with a curling effort for the visitors, his shot sailing inches wide of the post. Meanwhile, at the other end Abada blazed over from the edge of the box after a quick break away. He was assisted by Rogic, who had profited from Soro’s (half time substitute for McCarthy) defensive play.
A pulsating affair, Celtic fans were almost celebrating just shy of the hour mark. However, Jota’s trickery and superb dinked cross couldn’t be finished with the goal gaping. In truth, that was down to some excellent defending, which was soon required again when Rogic cut an inviting ball back to Turnbull, only for Fuchs to intervene at the crucial moment.
— Dundee United FC (@dundeeunitedfc) September 26, 2021
Frustration began to grow in the stands, the anxiety building as each opportunity went awry. And those emotions were to the fore again in the 77th minute when Ajeti couldn’t climb high enough to dispatch a delightful cross from the right wing. The attempt skimmed off the top of his head and went harmlessly wide. That said, Dundee United had moments of their own and maintained their threat.
On 81 minutes, Montgomery embarked on a fabulous run up the left wing. Upon reaching the by-line, the young full back delivered an exquisite low cross and, not for the first time, there were no beneficiaries on hand to put Celtic in front. Nevertheless, Postecoglou’s men kept at their task – remaining relentless in their attacking approach. Jota thumped a volley over the top, before Rogic hit the underside of the crossbar with a header from six yards.
Quite incredibly, Celtic’s dealings with the woodwork weren’t complete there as Jota hit the bar once more in additional time. His long range curling shot looked destined for the back of the net, only for the frame of the goal to rescue the Terrors for a third time.
A lack of clinical effectiveness in front of goal, combined with terribly bad luck, held the Hoops to a draw. Despite palpable frustration, and the fact that the result leaves Celtic six points off the top of the table, it should be noted that 31 league games are still to be played. The squad’s injury woes give cause for concern in the midst of a busy period, but on the other hand, there are a number of key players to come back and improve the team.
Full Time: Celtic 1-1 Dundee United
Man of the Match: João Filipe (Jota)
Celtic: Hart, Carter-Vickers, Ralston, Juranovic (Montgomery 26), Starfelt, Rogic, McCarthy (Soro 45), Turnbull, Ajeti, Abada, Jota
Dundee United: Siegrist, Smith, McMann, Freeman, Edwards, Fuchs, Harkes, Pawlett (Appéré 79), Niskanen (Spörle 62), Clark, Levitt