Celtic face Dundee United in the week where former legendary Dundee United manager Jim McClean sadly passed away. I am of a vintage to remember his managerial career, and I can say that he really was superb in putting together great teams and bringing through lots of good young Scottish talent.
Only one team in the history of world football have faced Barcelona 4 times in competitive games, and won every one of them. Jim McLean's team did just that, and he had them competing on every front in Scotland and Europe at that time. He wasn't without his flaws and had a miserable demeanour and a very short temper, but I can honestly say that he was a legend and deserving of all the plaudits that have come his way this week.
A minutes silence was observed before the game in honour of the great man, and may he rest in peace!!
The team had three changes from the weekend fixture against Hamilton, with the reintroduction of Christopher Jullien at Centre Half and, more notably, a recall to the starting eleven of Barkas in goal wit the Sevco game coming up. A vote of confidence in the summer signing from the manager. Laxalt also comes in at left back for Taylor.
Edouard showed great feet early on to fashion a chance in a busy central area, but the keeper was well positioned to stop a tame shot after some great touches from the Frenchman. Good early sign from him though.
Frimpong was also showing well in the early exchanges taking on the United full back but his run into the box drifted slightly over before he could provide the cut back.
Frimpong pinged in a ball in the tenth minute on to the chest of Griffiths. The little hitman pulled it down and turned in a congested box but it was blocked and ran into the arms of the keeper.
Diego Laxalt took hold of the ball down the left and swung a decent cross deep into the penalty box for the waiting Ryan Christie, but his header back across goal drifted wide.
Dundee United worked a clever free kick short to feet in the box and the lay back fell to Pawlett in a central position just outside the box, but his shot was too high to trouble Barkas in goal.
Soro took up position to receive a pass from McGregor. The United defence left him a huge amount of space in front which he stepped into and unleashed a curling, dipping drive from 30 yards that sailed past the despairing Siegrist in goal for a truly wonderful first goal for the club. A tremendous strike for a deserved lead.
Christie had a blocked effort in the penalty area, as the Hoops piled on some pressure. Opportunities were starting to come and Turnbull chipped a delightful ball into the path of Griffiths. The striker turned and volleyed but Siegrist saved and the rebound fell to Edouard who tried to bounce one off the ground and into the net but it narrowly missed the goal and went by without testing the keeper.
United had claims of a handball off Jullien's arm but as Celtic broke away Pawlett was booked for a cynical foul on the onrushing Frimpong.
Six minutes before the break David Turnbull doubled the Champions lead. Edouard broke up play in midfield and passed to Soro ,who laid off to Turnbull. The midfielder stepped through a block and guided the ball across goal and into the net off the inside of the United far post. A very tidy finish for the in form midfielder.
Ajer stepped forward magnificently and his pass to McGregor on the left was pinpoint. Unfortunately his final pass was overhit after delaying and possibly mixing up his choices.
Half time : Celtic 2 Dundee United 0Jullien took a nasty one early in the second half. McNulty took him for pace after a clever ball through the Celtic defence, but his shot past Barkas slowed it down and Jullien courageously slid in to clear it away. His momentum carried him along the ground and his trailing left knee smacked hard into the post with a sickening thud. A stretcher had to be called, and big Israeli Nir Bitton, was called for to ready himself from the bench. Bitton replaced the big Frenchman with 40minutes remaining and the giant defender must be a huge doubt for the game at Ibrox on the 2nd January.
Liam Smith was booked for a poor challenge on Diego Laxalt after the Uruguayan Skipped past him on the left. David Turnbull took a delightful pass from Ryan Christie into the channel and fired hard towards goal but his effort was well blocked by Siegrist in goal to keep the honours even for the half.
Griffiths had an effort from distance just before United had a chance. Wright broke well and played the ball centrally to Clark. The former Sevco Rangers player, was stray with the effort and it sailed harmlessly over when it really should have nestled in the net. UNited had another penalty claim when Bitton and McNulty came together inside the box. The United striker went down easily and Gollum wasn't impressed with the claim.
Edouard did well to break up play in midfield and once again Celtic pushed forward through Griffiths on the right. His ball through to Edouard was taken into the Frenchman but his shot lacked power and the rebound saw an effort from Griffiths that wasn't taken either. Shortly after the ball fell once again to Griffiths on the edge of the box but the hitman failed to find the net with a strong effort.
A long range free kick from little was hit with pace from 30 yards, but the wall took the sting off the effort, and unfortunately the ball which fell to Edouard, never dropped quickly enough to allow the Frenchman to find an opening and Siegrist blocked easily.
Frimpong on the right was still causing issues to the United defence and he found Callum McGregor inside the box, but the little magician couldn't get his foot around it enough to fire it goalward.
Ajer dealt with a United attack comfortably and his clearance was picked up by Griffiths in midfield. The Scotland striker played an early chipped ball over the United defence and Edouard took it down under pressure and lifted the ball beautifully over Siegrist to increase the lead to three, and for his first goal from open play for a while.
Celtic made two sets of substitutions, with Rogic, Ajeti, Brown and Elyounoussi all coming into the fray for the remaining 10 minutes or so. Turnbull, Soro, Griffiths and Edouard, who had all played very well throughout, made way for the quartet of subs.
Diego Laxalt nearly opened his account with a thunderbolt of an effort, but unfortunately it came off the shoulders of Moi and deflected wide of the target.
Elyounoussi and McGregor linked up nicely to create an effort for the Norwegian that the keeper saved easily enough. This was followed by a real chance as Celts charged forward in numbers, but an uncharacteristically overplayed pass from the feet of Rogic never found it's mark for the onrushing Ajeti and Christie.
Frimpong was played in on the right wing by Rogic and his drive into the box was hit a little too hard across the box to Ajeti, and his attempt to backheel into the net never quite came off due to the pace of the ball.
A sixth successive victory had been achieved when the final whistle blew and a three nil victory achieved. Another great performance, particularly in the first half has now given us a chance to make a mark against the league leaders, and hopefully some inroads into their 16 point league advantage. A month ago, you couldn't see us having any chance in the league, but if we can manage a victory at Ibrox, then it could lead to a bit of pressure on Steven Gerrard's men for the first time this season, after which they have some tough away ties to Aberdeen and Motherwell.
The one downside to today's action was the injury to Christopher Jullien. Hopefully it will not be as serious as it first looked and the big Frenchman can take his place in the heart of defence for the oncoming games.