Dundee Dumped with style
Celtic went into their second home game in a row, looking for another three points before the two away games before the Christmas break, and boy did they get what they wanted. This was possibly the best performance of the season so far, with wave after wave of attack, from a largely homegrown pool of talent. Brendan Rodgers was bold in his selection and kept faith with the youthful players who had played so well in midweek.
Ralston Simunovic Benkovic Izaguire
McGregor (C) Nitcham
Forrest Rogic Sinclair
Bench : Gordon, Brown, Gamboa, Hayes, Morgan, Christie, Ajer
It all started so brightly, with Rogic pulling the strings early doors. Great passing from the Aussie talisman giving opportunities for Mikey Johnston and then setting up a great pass for Anthony Ralston, who’s cross was met by Sinclair at the back post, but narrowly missed.
Johnston had a great strike at goal that was saved, but fell to Sinclair and his effort was cleared off the line by a Dundee defender Ralph with his head. Sinclair had another effort slip past the post before he was found again in a great move. Nitcham expertly moved his feet with a player snapping at him, and his clever footwork gave him the space to play a lovely pass into Sinclair. The Englishman ran with the ball in a style reminiscent of his first year at the club, taking on a player, beating him with good pace and crossing neatly to Johnston who cleverly took the ball off his heel, smacking the bar before being scrambled clear.
Nice interplay between Forrest and Rogic led to a chance for Nitcham at the back post coming off the Dundee defence and going behind. The resultant corner from Izzy landed at the feet of Rogic who let loose a deft left foot curler that narrowly went over the bar.
How Celtic weren’t ahead at this point was a bit of a mystery as 80% possession and a glut of chances were being created. A header from Forrest narrowly over the bar and some neat footwork by Johnston to create an opening that squeezed past the keepers left hand post, were chances that could have put the champions ahead. Great work down the right by Ralston resulted in a wonderful pass across goal, met by Sinclair at the back post putting a ball in for Nitcham to shoot, but unfortunately it was met by the goalie who was glad to smother the ball.
The end of the first half loomed when Celtic took the lead, and it was from the foot of the in form youngster, Johnston that the Champions made the breakthrough. McGregor, captaining the team for the day, picked up in midfield and played a sublime pass into the channel for Johnston to run on to. A quick turn by the winger opened the goal up and he slotted beautifully to the goalie’s left hand post and the ball nestled in the corner.
The loss of the goal led to a quick break from Dundee. A clever cross field, long ball was nodded down for the onrushing Curran to hit a strike from the edge of the box, but the attempt lacked direction and was comfortably taken by Bain in the Celtic goal. That action was the last for what had been a scintillating first half and Celtic leading by a goal to nil.
The second half wasn’t very old when Celtic doubled their lead, and that young man Johnston was on hand to improve his goal ratio and his own burgeoning reputation. Good work down the left from Izaguirre put Sinclair in position and his pin point cross was met from 6 yards out by the head of Johnston and the ball smashed into the net off the crossbar.
James Forrest came close to increasing the lead further when his powerful shot was saved at the near post after being put in by a deft chipped pass from Rogic. The third goal wasn’t long in coming though, and it was from an unexpected source. A cleverly weighted pass down the channel into the path of Ralston led to a stinging shot that Hamilton was unable to do more than parry into the path of Benkovic, who struck the ball sweetly downwards into the corner of the net and past the despairing Dundee defence.
The excellent Ralston was denied again , when Nitcham picked out Christie in the middle. Christie played the ball into the path of a good run from Ralston and his shot looked goal bound, but smashed off the inside of Dundee’s post and into the grateful arms of goalkeeper Hamilton.
The excellent Sinclair came close when found a few yards from goal by a neat Rogic pass and his backheel effort was scrambled away by Hamilton again.
This really was a magnificent display from start to finish. Exceptional performances from Ralston, Benkovic, McGregor, Sinclair, Nitcham and Johnston, gave one of the finest matches witnessed this season, and the scoreline really didn’t do the team justice. Another three points in the bag leave us top for Christmas and a little comfort ahead of two tough games away at Pittodrie and the Crumbledome before the winter break.
Some of our biggest players will be available for the visit to Aberdeen, including Tierney, Boyata and Edouard, but based on this fantastic display, we really could play the exact same team and feel comfortable.
Hail hail, and a Merry Christmas everyone.