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Dundee 0 Celtic 2: Samaras and Hooper light up Celtic's festive stroll

THE tradition of a festive stroll after the excesses of the season was revived by Celtic at Dens Park last night.

Samaras lands on the deck as his overhead kick finds the net. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS
Samaras lands on the deck as his overhead kick finds the net. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

This was a relaxed advance on victory that was marked by two staging posts of individual brilliance.

Georgios Samaras's overhead kick opened the scoring in the first half and Gary Hooper's exquisite finish put the match beyond Dundee in the second. The English striker's goal is worth more than a cursory description. His run beyond Declan Gallagher was spotted by Mikael Lustig and Hooper deftly killed his long pass before chipping Rab Douglas.

The win took Celtic seven points clear at the top of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League and reinforced Dundee's position at the bottom. The distance between the two sides was apparent throughout the match, with Fraser Forster troubled only once and saving brilliantly.

Dundee were predictably energetic but Celtic were stronger, faster, better. The only concern for Neil Lennon, the Parkhead manager, was his side's reluctance to reach the destination of victory promptly and the possible repercussions of Kelvin Wilson's reckless elbow on John Baird.

Celtic fashioned a series of chances, particularly from set-pieces, but their final ball was regularly wasteful. The brilliant execution of the two goals makes this carelessness all the more baffling.

However, Celtic will head into the dog days of the year with a deep sense of satisfaction. This display was not perfect but it was certainly commanding. This was a match that was as one-sided as the league table would suggest.

The pattern was set early in the first half and it did not feature Dundee. Their attacking efforts were limited, almost forlorn. When Colin Nish came short, Baird stood alone up front, looking like the little boy Santa forgot. The hosts' only effort of any significance came when the constantly industrious Stephen O'Donnell shot over after sloppy work by Emilio Izaguirre and Victor Wanyama

Celtic, in contrast, had so much of the ball that they almost tired of it, like a wean with a toy that induces boredom long before the batteries run out.

Izaguirre was particularly profligate in the left-back position, being accorded room to deliver a series of crosses but all too often finding the cold, bracing air of Dundee rather than a team-mate.

A conspicuous exception, though, occurred in the 11th minute when the Honduran fired the ball to the back post and the ever enterprising Tony Watt volleyed smartly, only for Douglas to push the ball behind the goal.

At the subsequent corner, Efe Ambrose smacked the ball off the bar from Charlie Mulgrew's delivery. This also formed part of a mini-pattern in that Dundee had a collective inability to defend corners. A Watt sclaff on the six-yard line should have provided further warning from the home side that Mulgrew's excellent delivery was bound to extract punishment in the shape of a goal sooner or later. And so it proved.

After 16 minutes of deliberate but insistent Celtic pressure, Mulgrew fired a corner to the back post. Watt volleyed and Douglas's desperate parry fell behind Samaras who promptly scored with an overhead kick. The Greek could have put the match out of reach of Dundee when freed on the left by Biram Kayal but Douglas saved well.

An indication of the domination enjoyed by Celtic was that it took Dundee half an hour to win a corner and Forster enjoyed a first period when he did not have to make a save of any difficulty.

His role was to feed the ball to Celtic's full-backs, the vibrant Ambrose and the inconsistent Izaguirre, and watch the pattern of complete dominance being played out in front of him.

His normal half-time routine of returning early to practise with Stevie Woods, Celtic's goalkeeping coach, gave Forster the opportunity to field both crosses and shots, an occurrence that was as rare in the first half as a festive TV television schedule without Stephen Fry.

He was called into more pressing service in the 50th minute when he made the sort of save that has brought him a call-up to the England squad. Dundee, enjoying a patch of some belligerence but little threat, suddenly created a marvellous chance. Ryan Conroy's cross from the left was met by a convincing flick from Nish but Forster jumped to his left and clawed the ball away to safety. Suitably encouraged, Baird then had a shot deflected for a corner.

Celtic, with Lustig a half-time replacement for Mulgrew, were suddenly finding the stroll somewhat more brisk but raised the pace further with Samaras having a shot blocked and the introduction of James Forrest, for Kayal, almost producing an immediate dividend when the Scotland internationalist ran on to a Hooper pass but found his dangerous cross intercepted by Douglas.

However, the Dundee goalkeeper was left helpless when Hooper showed touch and technique to score Celtic's second. The march to the title continues.

THE tradition of a festive stroll after the excesses of the season was revived by Celtic at Dens Park last night. This was a relaxed advance on victory that was marked by two staging posts of individual brilliance.

Georgios Samaras's overhead kick opened the scoring in the first half and Gary Hooper's exquisite finish put the match beyond Dundee in the second. The English striker's goal is worth more than a cursory description. His run beyond Declan Gallagher was spotted by Mikael Lustig and Hooper deftly killed his long pass before chipping Rab Douglas.

The win took Celtic seven points clear at the top of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League and reinforced Dundee's position at the bottom. The distance between the two sides was apparent throughout the match, with Fraser Forster troubled only once and saving brilliantly.

Dundee were predictably energetic but Celtic were stronger, faster, better. The only concern for Neil Lennon, the Parkhead manager, was his side's reluctance to reach the destination of victory promptly and the possible repercussions of Kelvin Wilson's reckless elbow on John Baird.

Celtic fashioned a series of chances, particularly from set-pieces, but their final ball was regularly wasteful. The brilliant execution of the two goals makes this carelessness all the more baffling.

However, Celtic will head into the dog days of the year with a deep sense of satisfaction. This display was not perfect but it was certainly commanding. This was a match that was as one-sided as the league table would suggest.

The pattern was set early in the first half and it did not feature Dundee. Their attacking efforts were limited, almost forlorn. When Colin Nish came short, Baird stood alone up front, looking like the little boy Santa forgot. The hosts' only effort of any significance came when the constantly industrious Stephen O'Donnell shot over after sloppy work by Emilio Izaguirre and Victor Wanyama

Celtic, in contrast, had so much of the ball that they almost tired of it, like a wean with a toy that induces boredom long before the batteries run out.

Izaguirre was particularly profligate in the left-back position, being accorded room to deliver a series of crosses but all too often finding the cold, bracing air of Dundee rather than a team-mate.

A conspicuous exception, though, occurred in the 11th minute when the Honduran fired the ball to the back post and the ever enterprising Tony Watt volleyed smartly, only for Douglas to push the ball behind the goal.

At the subsequent corner, Efe Ambrose smacked the ball off the bar from Charlie Mulgrew's delivery. This also formed part of a mini-pattern in that Dundee had a collective inability to defend corners. A Watt sclaff on the six-yard line should have provided further warning from the home side that Mulgrew's excellent delivery was bound to extract punishment in the shape of a goal sooner or later. And so it proved.

After 16 minutes of deliberate but insistent Celtic pressure, Mulgrew fired a corner to the back post. Watt volleyed and Douglas's desperate parry fell behind Samaras who promptly scored with an overhead kick. The Greek could have put the match out of reach of Dundee when freed on the left by Biram Kayal but Douglas saved well.

An indication of the domination enjoyed by Celtic was that it took Dundee half an hour to win a corner and Forster enjoyed a first period when he did not have to make a save of any difficulty.

His role was to feed the ball to Celtic's full-backs, the vibrant Ambrose and the inconsistent Izaguirre, and watch the pattern of complete dominance being played out in front of him.

His normal half-time routine of returning early to practise with Stevie Woods, Celtic's goalkeeping coach, gave Forster the opportunity to field both crosses and shots, an occurrence that was as rare in the first half as a festive TV television schedule without Stephen Fry.

He was called into more pressing service in the 50th minute when he made the sort of save that has brought him a call-up to the England squad. Dundee, enjoying a patch of some belligerence but little threat, suddenly created a marvellous chance. Ryan Conroy's cross from the left was met by a convincing flick from Nish but Forster jumped to his left and clawed the ball away to safety. Suitably encouraged, Baird then had a shot deflected for a corner.

Celtic, with Lustig a half-time replacement for Mulgrew, were suddenly finding the stroll somewhat more brisk but raised the pace further with Samaras having a shot blocked and the introduction of James Forrest, for Kayal, almost producing an immediate dividend when the Scotland internationalist ran on to a Hooper pass but found his dangerous cross intercepted by Douglas.

However, the Dundee goalkeeper was left helpless when Hooper showed touch and technique to score Celtic's second. The march to the title continues.

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