Hoops close in on title

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Published: Friday 1st May 2015 by The News Editor

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Celtic are within 90 minutes of winning the Scottish Premiership following a comprehensive 5-0 dismantling of Dundee at Parkhead.

Leigh Griffiths’ 19th goal of the season – his 15th this year – and a strike by captain Scott Brown gave the home side the interval advantage before they turned up the heat after the break.

Midfielder Kris Commons scored the third from the spot in the 71st minute then set up substitute James Forrest to make it 4-0, before midfielder Nir Bitton sealed the convincing win in style with a 30-yard thunderbolt.

The Hoops moved 11 points clear of Aberdeen with three games remaining and Ronny Deila’s side will be confirmed champions if the Dons fail to beat Dundee United on Saturday.

But, should Derek McInnes’ side come through at Tannadice, Celtic will travel to Pittodrie next Sunday looking to clinch their fourth successive title and, on this evidence, they will take some stopping.

Following Celtic’s 3-0 victory at Dundee United last week, Deila tinkered only slightly with his formation.

Right-back Efe Ambrose and winger Gary Mackay-Steven returned at the expense of Adam Matthews, out altogether, and Stuart Armstrong, who started among the substitutes.

Dundee were without suspended forward Greg Stewart and midfielder Paul McGowan was unavailable due to a court-imposed curfew.

But manager Paul Hartley made four changes in total with Simon Ferry, Stephen McGinn, Luka Tankulic and Alex Harris coming in, as Paul Heffernan and David Clarkson dropped to the bench.

The 90 minutes were not open to interpretation. Celtic attacked and Dundee defended.

The dark blue wall set up to blunt the Hoops’ attack had its weak points but in the early stages the hosts could not find that decisive final pass or shot, midfielder Stefan Johansen coming closest with a curled effort in the 12th minute.

Celtic continued to press forward and in the 26th minute there was a more than decent penalty claim when Dundee skipper Kevin Thomson tangled with Johansen inside the box, but referee Bobby Madden was unmoved.

However, three minutes later the breakthrough arrived in simple fashion when Griffiths leapt above Dees defender Thomas Konrad to meet Emilio Izaguirre’s cross and power a header past Scott Bain.

The Taysiders’ defence was breached again in the 37th minute with a fine team goal. Griffiths fed Commons and he played in Brown, who barely broke stride before knocking the ball low past Bain and into the far corner of the net.

Commons missed a chance just before the break when he skied the ball over the bar from around eight yards out, but two goals looked more than enough at that point.

Celtic resumed their domination as soon as Madden signalled the start of the second half.

Dundee looked happy enough to keep the score to 2-0, but the champions-elect continued to create chances, Johansen lifting his drive from the edge of the box over the bar before Bain thwarted Mackay-Steven who had raced on to a Commons pass.

There was a double Celtic switch in the 65th minute with Johansen and Ambrose replaced by Forrest and Darnell Fisher, with the latter brought down by McGinn five minutes later for a penalty which was confidently converted by Commons.

In the 77th minute it was Commons who set up Forrest for a well-taken goal, the winger sliding in an angled shot past Bain, before Bitton slammed in number five from long range with two minutes remaining to put further gloss on the scoreline.

Attention will turn to Tannadice on Saturday but, even if Aberdeen win, the Hoops will rightly travel to the Granite City next week in confident mood.

Published: Friday 1st May 2015 by The News Editor

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