Dundee fought their way to a vital and richly deserved point at Celtic Park tonight, forcing the champions to settle for a 0-0 draw. The Dark Blues were organised, disciplined and hard working throughout the game, repeatedly frustrating Celtic and coming close to a goal themselves on a few occasions.
The Dark Blues made three changes from Sunday’s draw with Hearts. Genseric Kusunga replaced injured captain Darren O’Dea, and Kevin Holt and Lewis Spence came in for Jon Aurtenetxe and Sofien Moussa who were both on the bench. Roarie Deacon moved into a more central attacking role, with Mark O’Hara replacing him at right wing back. Celtic welcomed back Craig Gordon in goal, with Scott Bain being unavailable because he is on loan from the Dee. The Hoops other change was ex-Dee Jack Hendy replacing Kristoffer Ajer in central defence.
The early signs were worrying for the Dee as the hosts settled into smooth control of the match, probing Dundee’s defence. It took three minutes for Celtic to slice Dundee open with a slick one-two between James Forrest and Moussa Dembele, but Elliott Parish saved well with his feet.
After an uncomfortable opening 10 minutes the Dee grew into the match, looking increasingly confident. The midfield became competitive, with the players able to settle on the ball and pick their passes. The Dee didn’t cause Celtic’s rearguard any great problems in this spell, although Craig Gordon was called upon to touch Simon Murray’s rising effort from 20 yards over the bar.
Midway through the first half Celtic went close twice in quick succession. Forrest finished a fast break with a rasping shot that Parish did well to turn around the post. From the corner Dedryck Boyata’s powerful header across goal struck Scott Sinclair in the face and rebounded over the crossbar.
The tireless Simon Murray repeatedly tried to run in behind Celtic’s centre backs. Twice Craig Gordon had to race from his goal to beat him to awkward balls flighted over the top. Gordon also had to be alert to beat away a ferocious cross drilled into the goalmouth from Mark O’Hara on the right.
In first half injury time Celtic had a remarkable escape when Roarie Deacon was sent clear by a long ball over the top from Genseric Kusunga. Boyata attempted a desperate last ditch tackle that sent the ball flying past his own keeper, off the inside of the post and bouncing along the goalline where a relieved Jack Hendry hacked it clear.
Celtic started the second half eager to grab a quick opener, attacking Dundee with serious intent. Scott Sinclair had a dangerous run in from the left, but the Dee defence crowded him out. Forrest was always a threat on the other side and opened up fleeting space when he moved infield, but hit his shot from 18 yards straight at Parish. The Dee keeper again saved well from Sinclair, who should probably have done better after Celtic’s best passing move of the second half game him a chance from 12 yards.
When they failed to turn their early pressure into a goal Celtic’s play started to become more rushed and ragged, repeatedly giving the ball away and hitting crosses straight to Dundee defenders. Celtic also let themselves down with some poor shooting from distance. Time and again they sent the ball deep into the crowd, relieving the pressure on the Dundee defence. In fairness the Dark Blues defence hardly needed that assistance. They were calm and composed, always in the right place and always making life difficult for Celtic’s attackers.
Midway through the second half we had the unusual sight of Celtic making three substitutions at once, switching to two strikers as they tried to change the pattern of the game. At the same time Sofien Moussa came on for Roarie Deacon. Dundee tried to hit Celtic on the break, and worried Celtic on occasion without creating clear chances from these breakaways. They came closest with a more prolonged attack that ended with Mark O’Hara bursting past Callum McGregor and flashing a low ball across the goal that none of the strikers could touch into the net.
Celtic’s final chance came three minutes from time when Jack Hendry glanced a header from a free kick a foot past the angle of post and bar.
Dundee handled the three minutes of injury time professionally, preventing Celtic from building up any impetus for a late charge. The final whistle came with Celtic stuck in their own half being harried by a Dundee team that had never for a moment let their workrate or concentration slip through all 93 minutes.
This was a massive point for Dundee. They have been frustratingly inconsistent all season, but tonight they stood up to the best team in the land and earned the draw that puts them five points ahead of the two teams at the bottom. Every man in dark blue played their part and made the formation work pefectly. Celtic were never granted easy space as Dundee kept their composure and shape flawlessly. A clean sheet and a draw at the toughest ground in Scotland meant that players and fans could walk proudly out of the ground. It might not be cool to say that a 0-0 draw was a great game, but for a Dee at Parkhead tonight this was a brilliant game, absolutely marvellous. To cap a fine night for the Dee, Craig Wighton came on for the last few minutes, and put in a crunching tackle on Scott Brown to stop the Celtic captain starting an attack from the back. Welcome back Craig!
Lustig, Hendry, Boyata, McGregor
Forrest, Rogic (Ntcham 65), Sinclair (Griffiths 65)
Dembele (Edouard 65)
Unused subs: de Vries (gk), Roberts, Ajer, Musonda.
Booked: Brown (foul on Deacon).
Dundee FC 3-4-1-2
Caulker, Meekings, Kusunga
O’Hara, Kamara, Spence, Holt
McGowan (Wighton 87)
Deacon (Moussa 65), Murray (Leitch-Smith 76)
Unused subs: Ferrie (gk), Kerr, Aurtenetxe, Wolters.
Booked: Kusunga (foul on Armstrong), Moussa (foul on Brown), Holt (foul on Forrest).
Referee: Alan Muir. Assistants: David Roome, Michael Banks. 4th official:Craig Charleston.
Report: James Christie.