Dundee 1 Celtic 2: Brendan Rodgers' side within one victory of a sixth successive title

Roddy Forsyth
The Telegraph
Jozo Simunovic celebrates his goal against Dundee - 2017 Getty Images
Jozo Simunovic celebrates his goal against Dundee - 2017 Getty Images

Celtic are within one victory of a sixth successive title – they can secure it against Hearts at Tynecastle on April 2 – after a win that had to be ground out against a stubborn Dundee side at Dens Park.

Jozo Simunovic sent the runaway league leaders en route to a 36th successive unbeaten domestic fixture with a shot on the bounce from a first-half injury time corner kick, although his effort went in off the back of Kevin Gomis.

There was no ambiguity about Celtic’s second, after the break, when a fine, flowing move released James Forrest on the right for a precise cross which was met with an equally clinical header by Stuart Armstrong beyond Scott Bain. A two-goal lead after 50 minutes or so usually precedes a remorseless tide of Celtic attacks and for a spell there were signs that Dundee might crumble as so many others have done in this campaign.

Paul Hartley, however, responded with commendable ambition, replacing James Vincent with Craig Wighton, who went into attack alongside Marcus Haber, then sent on Nick Ross for the more defensively minded Tom Hateley and finally deployed more firepower in the shape of Faissal El Bakhtaoui, in place of Henrik Ojamaa.

<span>Dedryck Boyata's header was cleared off the line&nbsp;</span>
Dedryck Boyata's header was cleared off the line 

That last switch yielded reward almost immediately when the French Moroccan striker ran straight at the heart of the Celtic back line and uncorked a 25-yard drive which lanced beyond Craig Gordon. Dundee might even have retrieved a draw when Haber found space to meet a cross at a favourable angle near the back post, but could only glance his header off target and the Dark Blues were left to rue a third single-goal defeat by Celtic this season.

It was far from Celtic’s most impressive performance under Rodgers but championships are not all garnish and have to bulked out by the comparatively humdrum, such as this contest, although the occasion did afford a special memory for Callum McGregor, who started in a landmark 100th appearance for the club, taking up the deep lying position usually occupied by Nir Bitton alongside Scott Brown.

Celtic fans
Celtic fans

McGregor had dropped off the pace somewhat by the three-quarters mark and made way for Eboue Kouassi and there was evidence that even an uncompetitive title race makes its demands upon inspiration, with Scott Sinclair and Moussa Dembele looking a touch jaded.

“Celtic never really cut us open and it was a bit of sucker punch with the opening goal,” said Hartley. “We conceded a poor second goal but we went 4-4-2 and had a few chances. The players never gave in and kept going.

“El Bakhtaoui scored a lot of goals for Dunfermline, but he has jumped two leagues and we knew it was never going to be easy for him, but he does have that in his locker - it is just consistency he needs."

Rodgers, meanwhile, felt that Celtic had done sufficiently well to merit their victory, even if not at their best. "We've seen Dundee of late and they have picked up,” he said.

“They make things very difficult and we knew it would be a tough game but we deserved the win and made it tougher at the end than it should have been. We had chances to make it more comfortable and we gave away a poor goal from our point of view, although it was a great finish.

“They put in some high balls into our box at the end, but the players did magnificently to defend that."

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