Dundee United 1-0 Celtic
Scottish Premier League
Tannadice Park, Dundee
Sunday 6 May 2012, 12:45pm
Scott Robertson's lone headed goal handed Dundee United three points over a disappointingly toothless Celtic at Tannadice Park, to guarantee the Arabs both a fourth place finish and a spot in next season's UEFA Europa League.
Although Celtic dominated the possession - by 66% to 33% at the final count - the SPL Champions failed to turn their control into goals as they slipped to what is only their fifth League defeat of the season.
The home side only made two changes to the side that suffered a 5-0 thrashing at Ibrox Stadium in midweek, with Gavin Gunning taking the place of Gary Kenneth and Richie Ryan making his first start in midfield while Johnny Russell dropped to the bench.
The other hand, Neil Lennon (Manager of the Month for April) made considerable changes to the side that defeated St Johnstone on Thursday night. Fraser Forster returned in goal in place of Lukasz Zaluska, while Scott Brown, Mikael Lustig, Gary Hooper and Adam Matthews returned to the starting lineup that also reverted back to a 3-4-1-2 formation.
Dundee United struck the first and only goal of the match in the 21st minute when a cross from a short corner on United's left flank found the unchallanged Scott Robertson in the air on the six yard line; the midfielder headed past Forster while Mikael Lustig failed to provide effective physical defence.
Scott Robertson (centre) after scoring the winning goal
Celtic, however, had the majority of chances in the first 45 minutes of the match. Just ten minutes into the game Kris Commons, playing behind a front two of Hooper and Stokes, found Stokes on the edge of the box with a defence splitting pass; however Stokes' cutback towards Celtic catpain Scott Brown was cleared by the United defence.
Both Hooper and Commons failed to hit the target with efforts from distance before Irish striker Anthony Stokes flubbed the clearest chance of the match just before half-time. Kris Commons' low cross across the face of goal ricoched off the Tannadice pitch and a United defender before coming to Stokes on the far post, who misread the movement of the ball and allowed it to run between his legs and out of play.
Stokes was replaced at half-time as Celtic brought on young striker Tony Watt. The second half proceeding much as the first but without any goals or clear-cut chances, with Celtic dominating possession but failing to fully test the United defence.
Watt, in only his second appearance for the senior side, began the half brightly. Early in the half the youngster headed Lustig's cross back across goal from a tight angle but the ball was correctly adjudged to have gone over the line as Victor Wanyama, who replaced the injured Thomas Rogne ten minutes into the half, headed over the open goal. Watt also had an effort on goal saved by United goalkeeper Dusan Pernis immediately afterwards.
The home side introduced Keith Watson and Johnny Russell for Neilson and Mackay-Steven respectivley after the hour mark, before Celtic brought on Dylan McGeouch for Scott Brown soon after.
With fifteen minutes left in the match, Ian Brines failed to award a penalty to Celtic after Emilio Izaguirre's cross clearly struck United right-back Watson's hand to knock the ball out of play; Brines incorrectly indicated that the ball struck Watson on the leg.
Gary Hooper had one last good chance for Celtic with ten minutes of regulation time to play but the SPL top goalscorer dragged his angled shot wide of Dusan Pernis' far post.
Johnny Russell had the chance to kill the game late in the match when a cross found him in space in the Celtic penalty box but his shot was blocked by Charlie Mulgrew. The series of short corners that followed allowed United to run down the last minutes of the clock and see the out the game.
The result secures both fourth place and a spot in the 3rd qualifying stage of the UEFA Europa League next season, while Celtic will be hoping for a victory against Hearts on the final day to take them over last season's points tally.
Hoops boss Neil Lennon, who is serving a touchline ban, described it as "a disappointing result" and believes that Celtic "should have won the game".
Charlie Mulgrew (left) competes with Jon Daly
"Our play in the final third was poor, in terms of the final pass and finish. I don't remember my goalkeeper having anything to do and the goal was poor, because we switched off to allow a player who was five foot ten a free header six yards out," the Celtic manager said.
"I can't remember the last time we conceded from a corner - it summed up the day - I wasn't happy with the attitude of some of the players, some of them are in holiday mode already.
"The major disappointment for me is that we've lost our unbeaten record in the league."
Lennon was also critical of Ian Brines' decision not to award Celtic a penalty for Keith Watson's 75th minute handball. The Northern Irishman said "I just want to know what the difference is between the one in the semi-final and the one we didn't get today.
"If the one they gave against us was a penalty then the one today was as well. They have to be consistent."
Peter Houston, obviously the happier of the two managers, focused on how well his side has done across the season in order to secure a Europa League slot later in the summer.
Houston described himself as being "delighted and proud of the players and backroom staff.
"It's been tough, but great credit and great spirit this team has got. When we needed to, we've come in with a run and we deserve fourth place. It started off poorly - we only got 10 points from our first quarter, but we showed a bit of mettle," said Houston.
"We didn't panic, kept going at it and working hard on the training ground.
"Look at Johnny Russell, he's still a kid in the game - but he's been magnificient, scoring the amount of goals he has. And we have a lot of players whose time will come next year. We have lots of good professionals and excellent character in the dressing room.
"I'm really proud of the guys. They can all awalk away with their heads held high. They've got us into fourth place and a European slot, which is all you can ask of them. To finish hopefully in fourth position, is a huge achievement for Dundee United."
DUNDEE UNITED (4-5-1): Pernis; Dillon, Dixon, Gunning (Kenneth 82'), Neilson (Watson 66'); Flood, Ryan, Robertson, Rankin, Mackay-Steven (Russell 68'); Daly
Unused Substitues: Banks, Swanson, Armstrong, Dow
Goalscorers: Robertson 21'
CELTIC (3-4-1-2): Forster; Lustig, Rogne (Wanyama 56'), Mulgrew; Matthews, Brown (McGeouch 71'), Ledley, Izaguirre; Commons; Stokes (Watt 45'), Hooper
Unused Substitutes: Zaluska, Cha, Ibrahim, Bangura
Referee: Ian Brines
Assistant Referees: Gordon Middleton, Brian McGarry
Fourth Official: John McKendrick