Thursday 18 January 2018

Celtic strengthen grip at the top

RONNY DEILA'S Celtic discarded their treble disappointment to beat Dundee 2-1 at Dens Park last night and go eight points clear at the top of the Scottish Premiership.

Ronny Deila's side had lost 3-2 to Inverness in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final on Sunday and it took a while for them to get going before former Dundee United winger Gary Mackay-Steven opened the scoring in the 32nd minute with a drive.

In the 63rd minute, Virgil van Dijk, like he did against Caley Thistle, fired in a wonderful free-kick for his 10th goal of the season and, although Dees midfielder Jim McAlister pulled a goal back with three minute remaining, it was not enough to stop the Scottish League Cup winners increasing their table-topping advantage over Aberdeen with five games remaining.

The victory was a tonic for Celtic following their Hampden humbling and few would bet against them going all the way to their fourth successive title.

Striker Leigh Griffiths hit the side-netting with a close range effort on the angle before Celtic nudged ahead after referee Calum Murray belatedly awarded them a free-kick after Dens defender Thomas Konrad had crunched Mackay-Steven.

When Armstrong flighted the ball into the box Van Dijk's header at the back post landed at feet of Mackay-Steven who controlled before firing high into the net.

A minute before the break a mis-kick by Celtic midfielder Nir Bitton went straight to Forrest, standing alone inside the Dees penalty area and with time, but his drive sped straight to Bain.

There was time for Dundee fans to claim a penalty at the other end when Parkhead stopper Jason Denayer bumped Greg Stewart but to no avail.

Deila's side started the second-half in a noticeably higher gear and in the 56th minute Bain made a fine point-blank save from Griffiths who had been set up by Forrest.

Dundee, while working hard enough could barely lay a glove on their opponents.

And the Hoops were coasting after McPake was booked for a foul on Armstrong 25 yards from goal, providing the opportunity for Van Dijk to power the ball past Bain and high into the net.

Deila was able to give defender Kieran Tierney his debut in the 80th minute as replacement for Emilio Izaguirre but there was some late drama after Dundee substitute Luka Tankulic, on for Alex Harris, had a shot blocked by Van Dijk for a fruitless corner.

Moments later, McAlister gave Dundee a glimmer of hope when he slid in a Paul McGinn cut-back but it was too little too late for the home side.

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