Having lost three of the first six league games, Celtic welcomed Dundee United to Celtic Park with a sense of optimism of getting a win. The injury woes had been getting increasingly worrying, but a home tie seemed like a good way of getting a run of wins started after some woeful away results.
Ange's team pretty much picked itself, with long term injury victim Jullien, still out, along with McGregor, Kyogo, Giakoumakis, Taylor, Dembele, Forrest and Johnston. Ajeti - our only fit first team striker would remain upfront and only Moffat on the bench could come on in a forward capacity to change anything. It is a sorry state of affairs and testament to the problems of losing so many players in the summer, without bolstering the squad with the quality replacements needed.
The first major action came from work down the right between Abada and Ralston. The full back was involved in a coming together with McMann on the right, but he recovered and got to his feet to drive into the box and his heavily weighted cross was met by the head of Ajeti in the centre, but he couldn't get over it enough to force the ball home.
Juranovic had an effort parried by Siegrist in goal and the rebound was hit by Rogic into the face of a United defender. Shortly after, McCarthy took a sore knock when he was trying to play a loose pass from Ralston, but United midfielder Fuchs was reckless with the tackle, and was possibly lucky to escape with just a yellow.
The breakthrough came after good work on the right. Starfelt found Jota who stepped inside and floated in an enticing cross straight to the head of Liel Abada who nodded into the net with aplomb. Unfortunately the lead would not last long.
McMann passed to Finnish international Niskanen on the wing who was met by a hapless tackle from Ralston which somehow floored the fullback. Carter Vickers was pulled out of position to try and stop the inevitable cross, but to no avail, as the ball came in and was met by Harkes from six yards out, who powered his header past Joe Hart in the Celtic goal.
As quickly as we had lost a goal, we nearly retook the lead. Starfelt once again found the impressive Jota on the left who ghosted past Freeman to cross to the back post. Abada was there to meet the cross and passed it across goal to Ajeti three yards out, but somehow the striker managed to miss the open goal and scooped the ball over the bar. A bizarre miss which was symptomatic of his days performance.
United had a penalty claim dismissed by Kevin Clancy. United pressed on a Ralston throw in to Rogic. The Australian played a heavy pass to Starfelt in defence and the Swede's his first touch wasn't great. He was fouled by Pawlett, but it wasn't given by the ref and the ball fell to Nicky Clark who was seconds later fouled by Carter Vickers inside the box. Clancy saw both tackles as a "coming together" and subsequently never gave either. Two wrong decisions eventually making a right one it seems!
Jota had a hit from the left hand side from about 25 yards which was going slightly wide, but brought out a parried save from Siegrist for a corner. Jota once again drove through the United defence shortly after this effort with a mazy dribble and his hard low drive inextricably never went in even after a deflection from Edwards right in front of the goal.
Turnbull crashed one off the bar from 25 yards with a blistering strike. He had robbed the ball in midfield and stepped forward onto his left foot and let loose a great effort which rattled the bar and rebounded out. Ajeti slipped the ball home but he was adjudged to have pushed Edwards in the back to take the effort.
Soro lost out in a midfield tussle which broke to Niskanen on the left and his curling effort wasn't far away from Joe Hart's left hand post, but thankfully it sailed wide.
Siegrist should have been sent off after a mid air kick out at Abada. Starfelt headed a United long ball into midfield and Soro nipped in ahead of a United player to get the ball forward with a high ball. Abada ran through the United defence in an effort to get onto the through ball and Siegrist had to come out of his box to attempt a header to clear the danger, but inexplicably he kicked out at the little forward in what should have been deemed as violent conduct. Of course, Kevin Clancy never saw the incident and the keeper went unpunished.
A nice ball by Turnbull found a run by the speedy Abada on the right. The little Israeli winger swung in a cross to the head of Ajeti but the Swiss striker once again couldn't find the required touch to get the ball goal bound. It wasn't an easy chance, but it was a chance nonetheless.
Jota on the right was causing problems. He did well and crossed deep to the right. Rogic managed to control the ball quickly and his cross back in was met once again by Jota, but his shot went slightly too high and over.
The bar would come into the equation once more with the next attack. Abada charged down the right and played a nice ball to the head of Jota. The young winger headed back across goal to the onrushing Rogic but the header was met by the woodwork and away to safety.
The bar was not finished there. It would come to the rescue of United one more time. Carter Vickers misplaced pass was met by Sporle. Soro tackled well and the spinning ball was touched by Turnbull onto a run by Rogic. The Aussie pushed forward but he was tackled well. The ball spun off to Jota who cracked one with his right foot from 25 yards out on the right but the woodwork had the final say and kept the final score at 1 a piece.
It's hard to take many positives from a home draw like this - particularly when it keeps us languishing in the middle of the table after 7 games played. It was a very frustrating game. Losing a goal within moments of scoring is criminal and missing easy chances in front of goal is very hard to take.
Some will point the finger at the manager for possibly the worst start to a league campaign in living memory, but the lack of depth of the squad coupled with injuries to half a team of first choice players is difficult to cope with. I don't think Ange was backed sufficiently in the transfer window and we are threadbare in options for advanced positions.
While it all looks a little bleak currently, the manager is right to say that nothing is won at this stage of the season. I have seen enough of some of the new players brought in to suggest that a return to fitness of some, will bring a change in fortunes and form. Kyogo, Jota, Abada and Juranovic all look like real quality additions. McGregor before his injury was looking as good as he has ever done, and he is, for me, the best midfielder in the country by a mile.
Juranovic took a hamstring injury during the game and had to go off, which is a further blow, but McGregor, Kyogo and Giakoumakis are all getting closer to returns. Jullien and Forrest are expected to return after the next international break too. a win against Aberdeen in the next fixture could be enough to keep us in touch before these key players get back and make a real difference to the quality at the managers disposal.
This will be a tough year, but it's not beyond the realms of possibility that we can turn round a bad start and go on to win what would be a massive title. Pray to the gods of football fitness for me.