Scottish Premiership
Dundee UtdDundee United0CelticCeltic3

Dundee United 0-3 Celtic

By Clive LindsayBBC Sport Scotland
  • Leaders Celtic back to eight points clear
  • Celtic could win title next weekend
  • Leigh Griffiths' second hat-trick in 11 days
  • Dundee United remain in fifth place

Leigh Griffiths' second-half hat-trick handed Celtic a victory over Dundee United that gives them the chance to win the Premiership title next weekend.

A depleted and youthful home side had competed bravely until Griffiths' clinical low finish two minutes after the break at Tannadice.

The striker added a close-range finish and a third from the penalty spot.

Celtic can secure the title on Saturday should they defeat Dundee on Friday and Aberdeen fail to beat Dundee United.

Griffiths completed the scoring after Gary Mackay-Steven was felled by John Rankin.

Referee Willie Collum appeared to have erred as the offence looked a yard outside the penalty box, but by then it mattered little with Celtic cruising to a victory that puts them within touching distance of their fourth consecutive title with four games remaining.

United end the weekend in fifth, their season having gone downhill since Mackay-Steven and Stuart Armstrong were sold to Celtic in January and being overtaken by St Johnstone after the Perth side's win over Dundee on Saturday.

That run of six defeats in seven outings included three at the hands of the Glasgow side in three different competitions.

Their chances of reversing that trend were hampered further by injuries that have ended the season early for Paul Paton, Ryan Dow and Mario Bilate, while top striker Nadir Ciftci was also sidelined through suspension.

Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths shakes hands with Dundee Utd keeper Radoslaw Cierzniak after collecting the match ball at full-time
Leigh Griffiths collected the match ball at the final whistle

It meant a first start up front for their January arrival from Kilmarnock, Robbie Muirhead, one of four teenagers lining up against a side that could afford to drop internationals James Forrest, Efe Ambrose and Mackay-Steven to the bench.

The bulk of traffic was predictably flowing towards the United goal, but it was Muirhead who forced the first save of the match after 20 minutes, his 22-yard snap shot forcing Craig Gordon to warm his international-quality fingertips.

Stung by that, Celtic responded by upping the pressure, but the only time they managed to evade the brave blocks and lunges in the United defence, a controlled Virgil van Dijk side-foot flew straight at goalkeeper Radoslaw Cierzniak.

United were dangerous breaking forward and their youthful line-up was giving the reigning champions the kind of test they had failed to deliver in the League Cup final, the Scottish Cup quarter-final and the league game that followed.

Yet, after all that hard work, the home side left their vigilance in the dressing-room shortly after the break when Stefan Johansen picked out Griffiths unmarked wide inside a crowded penalty area and the striker fired low into the far corner.

Celtic had a fresh spring in their step and Cierzniak did well to push away a Kris Commons diving header and then a powerful drive from Johansen.

United's confidence once more crumbling, their chances of recovery were effectively extinguished when Griffiths forced the ball over the line from close range after it crashed off the inside of the post and across the face of goal when Van Dijk rose to challenge Callum Morris.

Mackay-Steven had already fired a thunderbolt off the post before the substitute's powerful run pierced his former side's defence only to be cut down by Rankin and hand Griffiths a match ball-winning finale - his second hat-trick within 11 days.

Stuart Armstrong (left) in action for Celtic at Tannadice
Stuart Armstrong (left) was playing at Tannadice for the first time since moving to Celtic
Leigh Griffiths opens the scoring for Celtic
Leigh Griffiths fired Celtic into the lead a couple of minutes after the break
Leigh Griffiths (right) celebrates opening the scoring for Celtic
Leigh Griffiths (right) was on his way to a second hat-trick within 11 days
Goalkeeper Radoslaw Cierzniak is unable to prevent Leigh Griffiths' second
Goalkeeper Radoslaw Cierzniak was unable to prevent Leigh Griffiths' second
Leigh Griffiths completes the scoring with a penalty
Leigh Griffiths completed the scoring with a disputed penalty

Line-ups

Dundee Utd

Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 1Cierzniak
  • 16McGowan
  • 5Fojut
  • 14Morris
  • 3Dixon
  • 4Souttar
  • 8RankinBooked at 83mins
  • 24SpittalSubstituted forConnollyat 78'minutes
  • 21TelferSubstituted forCooteat 69'minutes
  • 17ErskineSubstituted forAnierat 85'minutes
  • 10Muirhead

Substitutes

  • 2Dillon
  • 22Connolly
  • 23Smith
  • 26Szromnik
  • 30Anier
  • 33Spark
  • 43Coote

Celtic

Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 26Gordon
  • 2MatthewsSubstituted forAmbroseat 69'minutes
  • 5van Dijk
  • 22Denayer
  • 3Izaguirre
  • 6Bitton
  • 8BrownBooked at 31mins
  • 15Commons
  • 25JohansenSubstituted forForrestat 72'minutes
  • 14ArmstrongSubstituted forMackay-Stevenat 60'minutes
  • 28Griffiths

Substitutes

  • 4Ambrose
  • 9Guidetti
  • 12Scepovic
  • 16Mackay-Steven
  • 24Zaluska
  • 49Forrest
  • 63Tierney
Referee:
William Collum
Attendance:
8,329

Match Stats

Home TeamDundee UtdAway TeamCeltic
Possession
Home35%
Away65%
Shots
Home5
Away8
Shots on Target
Home3
Away5
Corners
Home3
Away11
Fouls
Home4
Away8

Live Text

  1. Post update

    Match ends, Dundee United 0, Celtic 3.

  2. Full Time

    Second Half ends, Dundee United 0, Celtic 3.

  3. Post update

    Corner, Celtic. Conceded by John Rankin.

  4. Post update

    Corner, Celtic. Conceded by Jaroslaw Fojut.

  5. Post update

    Aidan Connolly (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

  6. Post update

    Foul by Leigh Griffiths (Celtic).

  7. Substitution

    Substitution, Dundee United. Henri Anier replaces Chris Erskine.

  8. Goal!

    Goal! Dundee United 0, Celtic 3. Leigh Griffiths (Celtic) converts the penalty with a left footed shot to the bottom right corner.

  9. Booking

    John Rankin (Dundee United) is shown the yellow card.

  10. Post update

    Penalty Celtic. Gary Mackay-Steven draws a foul in the penalty area.

  11. Post update

    Penalty conceded by John Rankin (Dundee United) after a foul in the penalty area.

  12. Post update

    Gary Mackay-Steven (Celtic) hits the bar with a left footed shot from the centre of the box.

  13. Post update

    Foul by John Souttar (Dundee United).

  14. Post update

    Kris Commons (Celtic) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

  15. Substitution

    Substitution, Dundee United. Aidan Connolly replaces Blair Spittal.

  16. Post update

    Foul by Nir Bitton (Celtic).

  17. Post update

    John Souttar (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

  18. Substitution

    Substitution, Celtic. James Forrest replaces Stefan Johansen because of an injury.

  19. Substitution

    Substitution, Dundee United. Alistair Coote replaces Charlie Telfer.

  20. Substitution

    Substitution, Celtic. Efe Ambrose replaces Adam Matthews.

As It Stood

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Celtic34264473175682
2Aberdeen34235656292774
3Inverness CT331671045351055
4St Johnstone34156133132-151
5Dundee Utd33154145250249
6Dundee341111124547-244
7Hamilton34137144448-446
8Partick Thistle34118154339441
9Kilmarnock34108163650-1438
10Ross County34107174058-1837
11Motherwell3494213359-2631
12St Mirren3473242660-3424
View full Scottish Premiership table

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