That just looked a bit more like Celtic, didn’t it?
Ahead of the derby on Saturday, all Neil Lennon needed was a comfortable, routine win.
Thankfully, that’s what he and the Celtic supporters got today (BBC). The passing and movement was fantastic, the Bhoys scored 3 excellent goals and United barely got a look-in. It was vintage stuff.
There were a couple of surprises, namely the selection of Vasilis Barkas, and Jullien’s unfortunate collision with a goalpost.
Still, generally speaking, this was exactly what the Bhoys needed to see off 2020 in style. Here are 3 takeaways from today’s win.
Soro scores absolute screamers, too
We are the heads of the Ismaila Soro CSC, and our devotion to the cause can never be questioned. His work rate, tackling and passing mean the Ivorian midfielder has legitimately world-class potential, and no, we’re not getting carried away (we don’t do carried away).
Still, even we didn’t know he can shoot like that. He nestled in a shot from outside the box, well past the hapless Benjamin Siegrist to put the Bhoys ahead.
It was a moment of sheer class from the young midfielder. His claim for a starting berth against Rangers is surely the strongest it’s ever been.
David Turnbull also scored from outside the box, and a nice wee goal it was, too. He was excellent again today, and has become one of our best players in an incredibly short amount of time.
We’re wondering if Neil Lennon wanted to test Benjamin Siegrist.
If that’s the case, the Dundee United stopper is more likely bound for Schalke 04 or CSKA Moscow than he is Celtic Park.
Celtic goalkeeping situation
Barkas didn’t have much to do today, but what he did do was unconvincing.
In the lead-up to Christopher Jullien’s very concerning injury, Barkas had a one-on-one with Marc McNulty. The ball was easily lifted over the Greek goalie, and it really should’ve been 2-1.
Barkas’ positioning was awful. He kept his arms low, and McNulty’s deft chip drifted over him, before Jullien cleared at his own detriment. We’ll now most likely be without the big Frenchman for Saturday, and it could’ve been so easily avoided.
I’m not saying Barkas is specifically at fault for Jullien’s injury. Mostly, because Vasilis Barkas is not a goalpost. Still, it’s calamitous defending right after the half-time break, and it needs cut out pronto.
Celtic’s defensive shape frustrated United all afternoon
McNulty’s chance aside, Dundee United barely got a sniff today.
In the end, Mellon’s side looked bereft of ideas. They tried to spray through balls to their 2 centre forwards but Shankland barely got a touch on the ball.
Kristoffer Ajer absolutely strolled the game, while Jullien looked largely comfortable until his injury.
Perhaps the most obvious sign of Celtic’s ability to frustrate the Terriers was a quick look at the passing statistics. United only completed an abysmal 68% of their passes (WhoScored?). That’s largely because the Bhoys pressing and shape meant that interceptions were coming easily for Lenny’s men.
Frimpong’s defensive side of the game has been much better over the last two matches. He doesn’t have to make Hollywood tackles if he does the basics right, and that was the case today.
Laxalt still concerns me, personally. You’ll have noticed that the most joy Dundee United has was on the Uruguayan’s side.
In general, though, this is the kind of confident, compact defending that we need to see from the Bhoys. Ahead of Saturday’s massive Derby, it’s encouraging to see Celtic keep a clean sheet.
Rangers’ attack will provide a sterner test than we saw today, but the positives were aplenty in this match.
Lenny’s defence was chief amongst them.