Celtic got the Juventus defeat out of their system in style with a rampant 6-2 win over Dundee United, who in one of those footballing quirks of fate scored the game’s first and last goal.
There was no Scott Brown and James Forrest was on the bench, and Joe Ledley came back and Tony Stokes reunited with Gary Hooper up-front. Adam Matthews came in for the injured Lustig and the rest of the team was the one which started against Juve. United took the lead after 9 minutes, Mackay-Steven robbing Charlie Mulgrew to set up Armstrong who fired home. However, Celtic equalised just moments later, Efe Ambrose heading home from a Commons header. He then celebrated with his usual array of backflips.
Celtic took the lead in the 21st minute, good work from Izaguirre setting up Commons, who fired home with the aid of the crossbar. Then came the game’s most controversial moment, as referee Bobby Madden awarded United a penalty, despite the fact that Adam Matthews seemed to win the ball with a clean tackle on Mackay-Steven, and not one United player protested for the penalty. Thankfully justice was done when Fraser Forster pulled off a great save from Jon Daly. Celtic took full advantage in the 37th minute when captain for the day Joe Ledley scored with the aid of a deflection.
The second-half was only ten minutes old when the Celts went 4-1 up, Douglas fouling Stokes, and after Neil Lennon ordered Commons to take it, he slammed the ball home. Tony Stokes then took over, with his first goal in the 70th minute a superb drive from outside the box, and his second coming eight minutes from time, scoring the rebound after James Forrest had his penalty saved. The game’s final word went to supposed Celtic target Johnny Russell, who scored United’s second in injury time with a fine solo goal.
Neil Lennon will be very satisfied with the result and performance, which has to go down as one of Celtic’s best of the season. Efe Ambrose recovered well from his disaster against Juve, Kris Commons continued his recent good form, and Emilio Izaguirre returned to the kind of form which once made him Scotland’s Player of the Year.
However, the highlight of the day has to be the return of the Stokes-Hooper partnership for the first time in a long time. The partnership was at the heart of when Neil Lennon’s Celtic played their best football, the second half of 2010-11 season. They link up very well, and Stokes has the knack of scoring lots of goals in the SPL, I feel that we wouldn’t have dropped some of the points we have in the SPL this season if Stokes hadn’t been injured. He deserves a new contract and let’s hope that the pair continue up-front when Celtic travel to Perth on Tuesday to face St. Johnstone.