Neil Lennon can be very pleased with today’s performance. Celtic controlled the game and won 3-0, though six or seven may goals have been a more appropriate reflection of play.
The Manager made one change to the team that beat Hamilton, with Barkas returning between the sticks ahead of Conor Hazard. The Greek international has had a difficult start to life in Glasgow, but has been reintroduced as the club’s number one keeper.
The 4-4-2 shape, alongside the introductions of Griffiths, Soro and Turnbull, have been key to Celtic’s improved performances. Indeed, that’s four consecutive clean sheets in the league and ten goals scored.
The Hoops bossed the game from the off and got their just rewards when Soro hit a 30 yard strike into the corner. The ball did swerve but the keeper got a hand to it and will be disappointed not to have kept it out. Nevertheless, it was a decent strike and another dimension to our midfield that has been missing this season.
Minutes later, David Turnbull played a delightful scooped pass over the top for Leigh Griffiths to latch onto. Griffiths’ movement was sensational again, which is how so many chances fall his way. On this occasion he was foiled by the keeper, despite making a good connection with the volley. The rebound went to Edouard, who flashed wide. It was the second good chance that Edouard had missed, as the Frenchman showed neat footwork early in the game before hitting a tame effort from inside the box.
Celtic dictated all the action and rarely looked under threat. There was a little bit of confusion in the backline when balls came into the box however, and Dundee Utd had a penalty claim mid-way through the half. It was quite rightly waved away and the Hoops then pressed home their advantage when David Turnbull sold the defender a dummy before driving a low shot off the inside of the post from just outside the penalty area. It was a lovely finish to put Celtic 2-0 up.
The second half started in ropey fashion. Celtic’s highline was exposed by one through ball, which allowed Utd to go one on one with Barkas. The striker slipped the ball beyond Celtic’s goalkeeper, but Jullien was on hand to slide it clear on the goal line. In doing so, Celtic’s towering French defender collided with the post. His left knee smashed the woodwork and he left the field on a stretcher. This a cause for concern going into the weekend’s must win clash with the Rangers, as Bitton is likely to be drafted in. No disrespect to the Israeli, but he is not as strong an option as Jullien in central defence.
Celtic’s backline were caught out again soon after when a Utd winger was found unmarked at the back post. Fortunately he put the ball over the bar. The defence then revealed their vulnerability as Nir Bitton dived into a challenge that he didn’t need to make. The Israeli made a small amount of contact with the attacker, meaning a penalty would have been a soft award, but it was a needless tackle to make.
Thereafter, Celtic regathered themselves and moved the ball about much better. Leigh Griffiths blazed a shot just over the top, whilst Odsonne Edouard missed a close range volley after the ball ricocheted from his strike partner’s free kick. A third goal did come though when Griff dropped short and played an exquisite pass over the top to Edouard. In turn, French Eddy produced a delicious lob to finish the game.
Chances for a fourth were squandered, particularly when Albian Ajeti failed to convert Jeremie Frimpong’s cross from a yard, but the Bhoys can be pleased with a 3-0 win going into Saturday’s huge game.
David Turnbull was named man of the match, Frimpong impressed with his speed getting round the back, and Soro was magnificent again. The front two weren’t at their imperious best but still combined for one of the goals. It all bodes well for the derby game on 2 January, when Celtic will have to go all out for the three points.