Dundee United 1 Celtic 1: Celtic denied as Sandaza saves spirited United

A late strike by substitute Francisco Sandaza gave Dundee United a deserved share of the spoils against Celtic in yesterday's Premier League meeting at Tannadice.

Paul Hartley's deflected goal six minutes after the break – and a controversial decision by referee Charlie Richmond to deny United a penalty when Roy O'Donovan clashed with Gary Caldwell – looked likely to give the champions all three points.

But in the 79th minute the Spaniard, on as a second-half substitute for Warren Feeney, nipped in at the near post to flick a Craig Conway cross past Hoops goalkeeper Artur Boruc.

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan felt it was a "cracking game" and thought the debate over the penalty claim should have been negated by what he thought was a foul by O'Donovan on Stephen McManus.

"Seconds before that the number 10 jumped into Mick [McManus], so it was a foul before that," Strachan said. "I thought we should have had that decision so we wouldn't be talking about the penalty."

United were well worth their point and might have grabbed all three in the closing stages as they went all out for the winner.

However, they will point to the game's most controversial incident in which Richmond refused to award a spot-kick when O'Donovan appeared to be tripped by Celtic defender Caldwell inside the penalty area.

Richmond ignored the claims, then almost immediately injured himself by running into Celtic midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura – and minutes later was substituted by fourth official Iain Brines with a suspected broken ankle.

The referee may have been spared by United's equaliser, which came in a second half in stark contrast to a dull first one.

United were first to threaten in the 10th minute when midfielder David Robertson climbed to head a Michael Kovacevic cross goalwards, Boruc stretching to tip the ball over for a corner – which the visitors survived.

Eight minutes later, O'Donovan was booked for barging Boruc as the Poland international shepherded the ball out of play. Tannadice left-back Danny Grainger then drove a volley from 16 yards just over the bar as the Taysiders had a spell on top.

In the 51st minute Hartley drove the visitors into the lead – albeit with the help of a deflection.Nakamura had time on the ball inside the United box to lay the ball off to the former Hearts midfielder, whose side-footed shot came off Garry Kenneth before nestling in the corner of the net.

United built up a head of steam and finally got the equaliser when Sandaza nipped in at the near post to direct a cross from Conway, himself on just seconds earlier for Willo Flood, past the helpless Boruc and into the net.

Goals: Hartley (51) 0-1; Sandaza (79) 1-1.

Dundee United (4-4-2): Zaluska; Kovacevic, Kenneth, Wilkie, Grainger;Flood (Conway 78), Scott Robertson, Gomis, David Robertson (Buaben 64); Feeney (Sandaza 64), O'Donovan. Substitutes not used: McGovern (gk), Dillon, Daly, McCord.

Celtic (4-4-2): Boruc; Hinkel, McManus, Caldwell, Wilson; Nakamura (Robson 68), Hartley, Scott Brown, McGeady; McDonald (Samaras 88), Vennegoor of Hesselink. Substitutes not used: Mark Brown (gk), Crosas, Donati, O'Dea, Caddis.

Referee: C Richmond (Scotland).

Booked: Dundee O'Donovan. Celtic McGeady.

Man of the match: Sandaza.

Attendance: 11,648.

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