CELTIC failed to close the gap on Rangers at the top of the cinch Premiership table to four points this afternoon when they were held to a draw by Dundee United at Parkhead for the first time in nearly eight years.

Ange Postecoglou’s side, beaten 1-0 by Livingston in the league away at the Tony Macaroni Arena last Sunday, took the lead in the 16th minute when Liel Abada headed home a Jota cross.

However, Ian Harkes levelled for Tam Courts’ side just two minutes later and the Tannadice club, who had beaten the Scottish champions at home on the opening day of the season, held on for a point.

Postecoglou’s day went from bad to worse when full-back Josip Juranovic and midfielder James McCarthy both went off injured.

The Greek Australian coach, whose men take on Bayer Leverkusen at Parkhead in the Europa League on Thursday night, is already missing James Forrest, Kyogo Furuhashi, Mikey Johnston, Christopher Jullien, Callum McGregor and Greg Taylor.

Celtic applied sustained early pressure and deserved to edge in front in the 16th minute when Jota picked out Abada with a cross and the winger nodded beyond Benjamin Siegrist.

Many inside the packed stadium probably expected the goal to open the floodgates given that that Joe Hart and his team mates have beaten Dundee, St Mirren and Ross County comfortably at home in the league this term.

But United were back on level terms within two minutes and were unfortunate not to snatch the lead two minutes after restoring parity.

Ilmar Niskanen showed great tenacity to outmuscle Anthony Ralston wide on the left flank and then picked out Harkes with a cross. His team mate rose and headed beyond Hart.

It was a well-worked goal. Postecoglou, though, will have been concerned about the space the scorer was afforded by Cameron Carter-Vickers and Carl Starfelt. His centre backs failed to get close to the midfielder. Were they even aware he was there?

Carter-Vickers and Starfelt were nearly to blame for Celtic falling behind moments later. Peter Pawlett pinched the ball off the latter on the edge of the Celtic penalty and then the former appeared to barge Nicky Clark over inside his area. Referee Kevin Clancy was unimpressed with the appeals for a spot kick.

Juranovic, who had come in at left back, pulled up injured after that incident and was replaced by Adam Montgomery. The youngster was soon requiring medical attention after a robust challenge by Kieran Freeman.

Jota was by far Celtic’s best performer. He forced a fine save from Siegrist and then had an attempt cleared off the line by Ryan Edwards. David Turnbull struck the crossbar with a long-range effort in added on time at the end of the first-half.

McCarthy had been fouled by Jeando Fuchs in the opening 45 minutes – the Cameroonian midfielder was booked by Clancy for his foul- and he failed to reappear for the second-half. His place in the centre of the park was taken by Ismaila Soro.

Postecoglou’s players pushed hard for another goal. But they were unable to test Siegrist. Their forwards took the wrong option or misplaced the crucial final pass whenever they got into the final third of the pitch.

United, trying to get a result in the East End of Glasgow for the first time since the November of 2013, broke forward on the counter attack on several occasions. They were unable to trouble Hart greatly. But they held on for a draw

Tom Rogic hit the crossbar with a header with four minutes remaining and Jota struck the woodwork with in injury-time – those near things summed up Celtic’s afternoon.