Well, sadly, my first match report for our new site will describe a defeat for Celtic.
As Celtic took to the field at Tannadice on Sunday in their green and grey kits (see another article for more on these), there was one late changed forced upon Neil Lennon, as Glenn Loovens, scheduled to start the match in central defence, injured himself in the warm up and had to be replaced at the last minute by Norwegian, Thomas Rogne. In all likelihood, we may never see Glenn in a Celtic jersey again now if his injury rules him out of the final match of the season next week, as speculation has linked him with a move away from the club during the summer.
This meant our starting line up was as follows:
The game itself was a fairly drab affair in large parts, as Celtic continued to toy with their recent formation of choice, the 3-5-2. There were very few chances early on, with both teams trying to find their rhythm, in a match with a distinct “end of season” feel to it.
Once we’d had roughly 20 minutes of early skirmishes, Dundee United won a corner in front of the Celtic supporters housed in the “shed” end of the ground. They took a short corner quickly, and crossed the ball for Scott Robertson to score with his head.
While this was a good goal, I’m sure Johann Mjallby, a fantastic defender in his day, will have felt frustrated about the fact Celtic conceded in this manner. I’ve heard several people point the finger of blame at different players, and in truth, I don’t think the blame can be reasonably directed to one man alone.
Robertson took a few steps back as the ball was in the air, leaving Thomas Rogne, usually a defensive stalwart, looking helpless as the ball flew over his head. Mikael Lustig can also be criticised, as he had his back to the ball when the corner was taken, and although he was behind the scorer, didn’t jump anywhere near as well as you expect from a defender with 23 senior caps for his national side.
All in all, the goal was down to a combination of errors in my mind. Part of the blame can be attributed to defenders not attacking the ball in the air as they should, part of it to not being fully ready for the quick corner, and part of it perhaps even to being “comfortable” as the players knew the league was won regardless of the result today, hence taking the edge off of their focus a little.
Anyway, as the game wore on towards half time, Celtic began to look a little more lively, as Hooper had shots from both distance and close range saved by Pernis, and Stokes failed to connect a cross only a few yards from goal. While any contact from the Irishman would almost certainly have resulted in a goal, I thought the flight of the ball was altered ever so slightly as it clipped a defender on it’s way across the box.
With Neil Lennon confined to the stand (albeit he was about five feet behind the dug out behind some glass in an executive box) it was left to Alan Thompson and Johann Mjallby to present the Celtic side with their half time team talk. Anthony Stokes was taken off during the break, and was replaced by promising youngster Tony Watt.
Immediately after the second half started, Celtic began to look more threatening, as Lustig crossed for Watt who sent his header into Pernis’ arms. Minutes later, Watt tested the goalkeeper again but Pernis was equal to his shot from distance.
As the second half wore on, both sides made substitutes, with Victor Wanyama replacing the injured Thomas Rogne, and Dylan McGeouch replacing Scott Brown.
By this stage, the match had developed a fairly unsurprising pattern to it, with Celtic having the majority of the possession, and Dundee United defending valiantly before breaking in numbers whenever they managed to get a hold of the ball.
As Celtic continued to press, without much success, and Dundee United continued to defend and counter attack, there were shouts from the Celtic supporters appealing for a penalty, as a cross from Emilio Izaguirre struck the hand of Keith Watson, but referee Iain Brines waved play on, as Celtic only got a corner for their troubles.
Personally, I thought this was a penalty. The defender was close, and didn’t handle the ball on purpose, but his hand was out from his body and stopped the ball continuing across the box. People will argue this point with me, and that’s not a bad thing, as differing opinions are one of the things that makes football such an interesting sport to follow. In saying this though, there is no guarantee Celtic would have scored the penalty, and our performance, on the whole, penalty or no penalty, was rather poor.
In the dying minutes, Celtic had their best chance of the match as Hooper was put through on goal but slid the ball past the post from a difficult angle. As the match ebbed out, it was clear that some (if not all) of the players weren’t too bothered in truth about the result, as they looked to have accepted a defeat as inevitable in the final moments, rather than really pushing for an equaliser.
All in all, Celtic were poor today, and while a draw may have been a fair result, Dundee United do deserve credit for their win. They took their chance well and were incredibly organised when it came to defending. If I had to choose a time to lose at Tannadice, I would have picked a day like today when the league title was already won. However, it is never nice to see the team you support lose, and therefore from this aspect it was a disappointing afternoon.