An Albian Ajeti strike inside the final 10 minutes broke Dundee United hearts as Celtic snatched a 1-0 win at Tannadice.
The Tangerines had been compact in defence and looked set to take a point from this tie. But Ajeti, on his green and white debut, rose form the bench to give his new team all three points.
It was set to be a tough ask this for Micky Mellon’s men but last season’s Championship winners showed promise in their opening four Premiership games, picking up seven points from 12. Against a Celtic side fresh off the back of handing out a 6-0 Champions League hammering, this was their biggest test yet.
The Hoops dominated possession but the Tangerines backline wasn’t budging. It didn’t mean that Neil Lennon’s side didn’t get close to goal, Benjamin Siegrist making two good saves to keep the away side at bay.
Mellon’s men were rigid and they would have been pleased with their first half shutout. To make it worthwhile though, they had to make sure Celtic weren’t allowed to breach them in the second 45.
Odsonne Edouard tested Siegrist again early in the second half but Siegrist stood firm once more. United were trying to play a bit where they could but they weren’t getting much joy in the final third, despite a strong display overall.
Jamie Robson had a pop at Vasilios Barkas’ in United’s first shot on target but it was a comfortable save for the new Celtic recruit. Off the bench, James Forrest was next to have a go, firing over Siegrist’s bar.
But there was heartbreak for United to come. Ryan Christie had his late curling shot well saved by Siegrist, with a goalmouth scramble resulting in Ajeti getting a shot high into the net via a deflection.
Things eventually fell for Celtic despite a strong defensive display from Dundee United, who will feel a bit disappointed they haven’t taken a point from this one. Here are three things we learned.
Mellon almost makes it work
Mellon has started well at Tannadice and again today he showed his managerial powers of versatility. Against Motherwell in a 1-0 away win they were excellent on the break, against Ross County resilience was shown to secure a 2-1 comeback victory.
Today against Celtic, they had to man the barricades and shut Celtic down in attack. It wasn’t enough to keep their visitors out for 90 minutes, but Mellon did well to make this a competitive outing for the entirety of this encounter.
Too much in the end
As Celtic threw more and more strength in the final third at United, there was only so much their backline could take. Eventually, a dream debut for Ajeti will cause United nightmares, so close they were to a very good point.
There’s plenty of positives for Mellon to take from this one but taking something from the Parkhead side was a step too far for his team.
Perhaps there’s an argument to be made for Tangerines keeper Siegrist taking the Man of the Match award home. He tormented Celtic with save after save, a rebounded deflection eventually beating him.
But before that he had made four or five top drawer saves to keep the Hoops at bay. His efforts merited a point, but it wasn’t to be.