51 and counting…

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Leigh Griffiths got proceedings under way last night at Tannadice with his 50th goal for Celtic. It was such a superb finish on his weaker right foot that he even managed nutmeg Dundee United keeper Eiji Kawashima in the process.

That was the opener for Celtic but there was more to come. A free kick floated in from the left  found the head of Jozo Šimunović who duly finished from close range to get his first goal for the club.

After a brief stutter at the beginning of his Celtic career with injury, the Croation is slowly introducing some assurance and composure to the backline. In fact I would be be doing the defence an injustice if I did not mention his counterpart these past few games, Efe Ambrose.

Efe has been the culprit of some key blunders for Celtic, all of which I’ve tried to forget. Since stepping in to replace the injured Dedryck Boyata though, he has looked more comfortable and last night he was in good form.

I would give him a bit longer before I am convinced he has turned a corner though. This is no time to get carried away on the back of a few games against Partick Thistle (9th), Stanraer (League Two) and Dundee United (bottom).

Despite that defensive stability United pulled back a goal after a ball was played through to Simon Murray. I take nothing away from the pass and finish but it was sloppy play by Celtic who had more than enough players behind the ball to deal with this.

Griffiths would add to his own tally by scoring the third goal of the match and his 51st for the club with another right footed finish. He was positively sailing at this stage and was in the hunt for the hattrick.

That would not come to fruition despite being a constant menace. Instead Kris Commons, so quiet for much of the game, would round things off style.

That is often the gift with the 32 year-old and why he is always worth keeping on the park ahead of others such as the disappointing Stefan Johansen. After some nifty footwork by Tom Rogić, he found Stuart Armstrong wide on the left who in turn put in a perfect cross to Commons who smashed in an excellent volley.

This was a great all round performance by the Hoops. They looked confident and positive again but they need to keep that up from now until the end of the season.

Armstrong who had just come back from injury was a thorn in the side of his old club. His prowess in the first half was unfortunate not to produce a goal but his involvement in the game was significant, such was the rough treatment he got in return.

After putting in a tireless effort, he made way for Scott Allan. Allan is a player we may not see enough of until next season but at least he is getting more game time albeit from the bench.

Once more Kieran Tierney put in a hungry performance. Had it not been for the second game in a row where received some rough treatment on his shoulder, he would have finished the match last night.

That allowed a rare appearance for Emilio Izaguirre. Not enough game time for him to impose himself though.

Rogić was a constant menance and involved in everything. He was substituted, much to his disappointment, in all likelihood to keep him hungry for the midweek game against Hamilton.

His replacement James Forrest began to cause problems for Dundee United. However, he was probably more notable for his handball in the Celtic penalty box which was overlooked by the very inept match officials.

I think United had about three claims altogether. I wouldnt necessarily say they were all penalties but the Forrest handball was a stonewaller.

At least the officials were consistently poor for both teams. Poor judgement was so frequent with Griffiths’ ‘offside’ decisions that they were almost the story of the game.

For a team who are rooted to the bottom of the table though, Dundee United showed enough desire to suggest they could be further up the league standings. Perhaps it is the fact they are fighting for their Scottish Premiership survival that is bringing out such displays or that Celtic took three of their best players?

Whatever the case this was an encounter at Tannadice that wouldn’t have disappointed even the neutral fan. And speaking of fans, the travelling Celtic support were in fine voice at Tannadice.

I’m sure Friday night inebriation played a big part but the singing was great. I particulalry enjoyed the constant rendition of singing about former Celtic players.

For Celtic it was another victory January to help them toward reacipgphing a possible treble. In contrast, Dundee United are a step closer to relegation

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

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