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Dundee Utd 0-3 Celtic: Match Report

Griffiths goals puts Hoops on brink

Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths grabbed a second-half hat-trick against Dundee United to take the Hoops eight points clear at the top of the Scottish Premiership with a 3-0 win at Tannadice.

Goalkeeper Craig Gordon made a fine save from United’s 19-year-old striker Robbie Muirhead in the goalless first half before the former Wolves player struck.

Two minutes after the restart he took a pass from Stefan Johansen before drilling an angled drive past Radoslaw Cierzniak and then beat the United man from much closer range in the 65th minute to effectively seal the win.

With eight minutes remaining referee William Collum adjudged that United skipper John Rankin brought down substitute Gary Mackay-Steven inside the box – there were some suggestions he made the wrong call – which allowed Griffiths to slam in his third and re-establish Celtic’s advantage over Aberdeen at the top of the table with four games remaining.

There might be some focus on the penalty award given the furore which followed the spot-kick the Hoops were denied in last week’s William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final defeat by Inverness at Hampden, but this time it had no bearing on the outcome with Ronny Deila’s men deserving to win the seventh meeting of the season between the clubs.

Deila brought back midfielders Johansen and Kris Commons and right-back Adam Matthews as James Forrest, Mackay-Steven and Efe Ambrose dropped to the bench.

With Nadir Ciftci suspended and Calum Butcher and Mario Bilate joining Paul Paton and Ryan Dow on the injury list, United also showed three changes.

Muirhead made his first start since signing from Kilmarnock in February while midfielders Rankin and Blair Spittal returned.

The visitors started the better of the two teams but the game took a while to warm up.

Celtic defender Virgil van Dijk headed a corner from former United midfielder Stuart Armstrong over the crossbar in the 16th minute which appeared to jolt the home side into life.

United midfielder Charlie Telfer swung in a dangerous cross from the right, which evaded everyone before running out the other side of the penalty box, seconds before Tannadice defender Ryan McGowan glanced a Telfer corner wide of the far post.

The Taysiders slowly grew in confidence as the game unfolded

In the 21st minute a speculative 20-yard drive from Muirhead drew a fine fingertip save from Gordon at the expense of a corner which came to nothing before the Parkhead men responded.

In another spell of pressure Armstrong set up Van Dijk with a cut-back but his drive from 10 yards was half-blocked by Dundee United stopper Callum Morris with Cierzniak making the save.

Celtic skipper Scott Brown picked up a booking for a challenge on United counterpart Rankin but referee Collum was winning his battle to keep control.

Brown was involved in Griffiths’ goal just after the start of the second half when he slipped the ball to Johansen who, in turn, quickly put in the unmarked Griffiths who confidently drilled the ball past Cierzniak and into the far corner of the net.

Whatever anxieties had been expressed in the Hoops dressing room at the break evaporated.

A brilliant cross from Johansen in the 51st minute found Commons whose close-range header was brilliantly saved by Cierzniak, the goalkeeper following it up with further saves from the former Derby player and Johansen, before Van Dijk came close with a free-kick.

Mackay-Steven replaced former United team-mate Armstrong to help the Parkhead men strengthen their grip on the game and the second goal came soon afterwards from a Commons corner, although it was rather messy.

Van Dijk and Morris competed for the header and when it came off the post Griffiths eventually got the ball over the line before taking the acclaim of the travelling fans behind the goal.

United kept on going but without much conviction and Celtic came close in the 81st minute when Mackay-Steven rattled the crossbar with a drive from the edge of the box.

The destination of the points were settled but Collum pointed to the spot after Mackay-Steven was pulled down by Rankin and after a delay, Griffiths drove in the penalty to take his tally for the season to 18 and the Parkhead men a little closer to their fourth successive title.

Source: PA

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Dundee Utd 1-0 Hamilton: Match Report

United defeat Hamilton

Dundee United finally returned to winning ways in the Scottish Premiership thanks to Chris Erskine’s decisive 70th-minute strike which ended Hamilton’s top-six hopes at Tannadice.

Jackie McNamara’s team had gone 10 league games without victory going into this match but they ended that sequence as Erskine’s well-taken goal gave them a 1-0 win.

It leaves Hamilton now winless in 13 games since Alex Neil left back in early January to be replaced by player-boss Martin Canning as their season plummets.

Hamilton made the brighter start as Louis Longridge unleashed a long-range shot which home keeper Radoslaw Cierzniak held.

Soon afterwards, Longridge sent over a decent corner which was met by Michael Devlin and his header flashed past the post.

At the other end, Hamilton’s Darian MacKinnon became the first player to be booked in the 11th minute for a late challenge on Paul Paton. From the resultant free-kick, though, Charlier Telfer fired his effort well over Michael McGovern’s crossbar from 22 yards.

In 23 minutes, Alister Crawford joined MacKinnon in being booked for a lunge on Paton.

United were gradually beginning to find their feet and next up Blair Spittal went on a mazy run, only to be stopped in his tracks by Hamilton defender Ziggy Gordon’s strong challenge.

However, Accies were attacking at every opportunity and, as the half-hour mark approached, Devlin’s header was helped on by Nigel Hasselbank but Paton was well-placed to clear off the line.

On 40 minutes, Nadir Ciftci turned swiftly inside the box before firing in a shot which McGovern gathered at the second attempt.

In their last attack of the first half, Crawford set up Dougie Imrie 12 yards from goal but from a tight angle he dragged his shot wide.

Hamilton almost took the lead in the 51st minute when Longridge fed Stephen Hendrie whose close-range shot hit Cierzniak’s far post before running to safety.

Just after the hour mark, Hamilton were claiming for a penalty.

Imrie released Scotland who, in turn, cut the ball back for MacKinnon whose shot was blocked by Ryan McGowan, but referee Andrew Dallas was right up with play and insisted it did not come off the defender’s hand.

Almost immediately after that, Longridge popped up at the far post and his effort came back off the post and right into Cierzniak’s hands.

Then, on 65 minutes, Cierzniak defied Jason Scotland with a diving save to prevent his powerful shot from 12 yards giving the visitors the lead.

Cierzniak came to the rescue again for United two minutes later when he produced a fingertip save from Crawford’s 25-yard free-kick, pushing it onto the post before it was cleared to safety.

But United went ahead against the run of play in the 70th minute.

Substitute Mario Bilate found Telfer and he passed to Erskine who did the rest as he swept a low left-foot shot into McGovern’s far corner from 22 yards.

That brought huge relief for the visitors, who should have gone 2-0 ahead in the final minute but Bilate knocked Ciftci’s cross wide from point-blank range.

Source: PA