Celtic 2-1 Dundee: Calamity King Artur is the catch
Celtic 2 Brown 37; McGeady 44 Dundee 1 McMenamin 14
ON A DAY when Aiden McGeady reappeared from his spell in solitary, Celtic moved shakily into the fifth round of the Scottish Cup in awful weather and in front of a sparse crowd of 23,000 diehards.
They won but made hard work of it. They overcame Dundee but only after missing a bundle of chances at 2-1 and leaving them open to a late equaliser which could have come, with the game in its final minutes, when Mr Calamity in the Celtic goal dropped a routine cross near his own line and then scrambled like a madman before Glenn Loovens cleared the danger. Parkhead gasped and groaned and ultimately would have been glad to hear the last whistle.
If McGeady marked his return to action with a beautiful goal, Artur Boruc's day was almost as foul as the weather. A hero in his mano-o-mano with Kris Boyd a few weeks back, Boruc's spilled ball late-on was a hairy moment he managed to get away with, but that apart, he cost Celtic a goal yesterday. And how. His fly-hack at thin air that brought the opener for Dundee after 14 minutes was one that made you rub your eyes in bewilderment. Did he really do that?
Mercy me, this guy is a conundrum. He has produced some moments of high farce between the sticks this season. There was an error that gifted a chance to Kenny Miller in the 4-2 loss to Rangers, John Rankin's squiggler and a blunder in Bratislava when playing for Poland. Perspective is required here, though. He saves Celtic more often than he costs them, that has to be remembered. But there is a problem with him, for sure. He's a world class goalkeeper with a destructive streak. What happened here was outrageous for a player of his ability and Gordon Strachan admitted as much, after a little coaxing.
"He'll sleep tonight, he'll be fine. It happens in life," he began, before addressing the issue properly. "We'll have to sit down and work out what's best for him in training. It's something we don't dismiss. We won't laugh about the big swipe. We all analyse the games and it's up to us to get him back to his best form. We'll talk about it and see what we can do better."
Is Boruc carrying excessive poundage across his gut, Strachan was asked. "You know, Paul Gascoigne was like this as well," said the manager. "When he was playing well they said he was strong. When he wasn't playing well they said he was fat. It changes depending on how you're playing."
In the end, Boruc's errors didn't damage his team. Just before the break, Scott Brown's determined run and finish brought Celtic level and McGeady's clinical strike put them ahead soon after. But Boruc was the talking point.
The opening goal came from a long punt downfield by David O'Brien, chased, forlornly we thought, by Colin McMenamin. Boruc was always going to win the race to the ball even though he was outside his box when he came to boot it clear. He missed. He hacked at it and didn't get close. McMenamin ran on to tap it into the empty net. Boruc sort of smacked his hands together in frustration and trotted back into goal sheepishly. Dundee's fans, meanwhile, went half mental with the joy of it all.
The annoying thing from a Celtic viewpoint was that directly before Boruc did his thing, they should have scored from a corner, Loovens failing to finish with a header from straight in front of the posts. Dundee broke from there and went one-up and there they stayed for an uncomfortable 25 minutes. There was never any doubt the home team would get their breakthrough but decent defending and some authoritative goalkeeping from the returning Rab Douglas delayed the inevitable. In fact, Douglas was excellent all day.
Things started to turn for the home team eight minutes before the break when Brown went on a surge down the left, so forceful that it left you in no doubt that he'd had enough of the messing about. He drove on and swerved into the Dundee penalty area, struck a shot that hit Andrew Shinnie, hit another shot that was buried past Douglas.
Brown has become one of Celtic's chief go-to men this season. McGeady used to be that soldier. Strachan praised him for his work yesterday. Yes, praised him. Said he did well, scored a sweet goal and did a selfless job. In fact, Strachan was mildly critical of the rest of his side for not giving McGeady more possession. "If we're asking him to give himself up for the team we have to give him more ball."
Celtic's second goal was typical McGeady. He was away from his marker with a drop of the shoulder and a step and in a little bit of room he smacked a curling shot past Douglas. Outstanding.
Dundee, however, are in a tough league and they are not short of fight. They were always second best but they punched away regardless, causing Celtic bits of bother at times. Certainly, Strachan was not comfortable with the match at 2-1. All that possession and no third goal would have done nothing for his peace of mind on the touchline.
Celtic were guilty of profligacy and greed in front of goal. McDonald didn't have his finest game, to put it mildly, and Boruc's late juggle sent the heart sideways in the home support. Douglas came in to chat later on and was quizzed about his opposite number. "When you make a mistake for the Old Firm," said the former Celtic goalkeeper, "it's the loneliest place. It's a horrible place to be. But Artur has been unbelievable here, he's won titles and saved a penalty in the Champions League against Manchester United. I have respect for him. The last thing he needs is me saying something (about the mistake). It's the goalies' union – and always will be."
There will be those in hoops offering up prayers for the holy goalie this morning. Whole novenas, perhaps. One thing's for sure, life in the SPL would be a whole lot duller if he wasn't around. Hero and villain, in one perplexing package.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Rab Douglas made many decent saves and was in control of his penalty area at all times. Not at fault for the two goals and Dundee would have lost by plenty more if it wasn't for him.
Five years ago to the day Celtic had another testing Cup tie at Parkhead against another set of minnows, Ross County's resolve only breaking after 74 minutes on that occasion.
What do you do about a problem like Artur Boruc? It's a total puzzler how this goalkeeper is making so many hair-raising mistakes. Once upon a time he was an absolute rock. Now he appears to be made of jelly.
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