Lethal Hooper ensures Celtic stay on easy street
Celtic 2 Dundee 0
Sunday 23 September 2012
Domestic fixtures can seem mundane after the sophistication of the Champions' League, but Neil Lennon's team could at least ease back into the routine of unremarkable occasions. The merit in this display was that Celtic were determined and purposeful, even if Dundee offered little in response.
The visitors were capable of sporadic moments of crisp and precise play, but that attempt at measured football soon wilted. They ought to have opened the scoring early on, but Colin Nish hit a tame shot, then John Baird lashed the rebound over. Dundee then acted as though their regret was debilitating. They retreated into a deeply conservative approach, while Celtic persevered.
"Those are the chances you have to take," said Barry Smith, the Dundee manager. "We just need more belief." He was, though, irked that his side was not awarded a penalty when Emilio Izaguirre appeared to trip Gary Irvine in the box.
Once Celtic's command of the game was established, it became a serene occasion. A moment of discontent still had to be borne, though. When Lassad Nouioui strode into space inside the penalty area, Kyle Benedictus lunged rashly at him. However, Scott Brown hit the penalty at a height that allowed Robert Douglas to throw a hand up to save while diving towards the corner of his goal.
By that stage in the first half, though, Celtic were already dominant and Brown could console himself that there were still significant interventions to be made. Just before half-time, he had the presence of mind to stab a pass into the path of Gary Hooper, who jinked past two defenders before shooting low and hard beneath Douglas.
Lennon would have been too preoccupied with the ragged elements of his team's display to be relieved by the goal. Much of the play had been pedestrian, even though Dundee offered little meaningful resistance. A sprightliness was certainly evident after the interval, as though a few reprimands were still echoing in the players' minds.
Dundee almost managed to be even more accommodating, with Irvine chesting the ball against his own post. The vulnerability was reassuring for Celtic, and Victor Wanyama took time to measure his deliberate and powerful shot from 22 yards past Douglas. It was a languid finish, but the contest no longer demanded any urgency from the home side.
Through sheer weight of numbers in the Dundee half, Celtic continued to threaten, although the game itself no longer demanded any sense of adventure. Douglas amassed a number of impressive saves, but he could not singularly defy Celtic. The woodwork came to his assistance again, when Hooper struck the post from Tony Watt's slick cross.
"The only disappointment was that we didn't get more goals," said Lennon. "I don't know if it was the atmosphere, but the game slowed down at times. It was maybe a little bit of after the lord mayor's show."
Celtic (4-4-2): Forster; Matthews, Wilson, Mulgrew, Izaguirre; Forrest, Wanyama, Brown (Ambrose, 86), Commons (McGeouch, 75); Hooper, Nouioui (Watt, 66).
Dundee (4-5-1): Douglas; Irvine, Benedictus, Davidson, Lockwood; Milne (Boyle, 66), McAlister, Kerr, Conroy, Baird (Riley, 72); Nish.
Referee John Beaton.
Long after his career in English football has ended, Emile Heskey's impotency in front of goal remains an object of ridicule.
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