RONNY Deila will be able to enjoy his 40th birthday today after his Celtic side delivered their most impressive display of the season when he needed it most.
The champions romped to the biggest league victory of Deila’s managerial tenure against a hapless and hopelessly outclassed Dundee side. Emilio Izaguirre, a Europa League sinner in midweek when his dismissal proved costly against Ajax, earned some redemption with two of Celtic’s goals, although he missed out on a hat-trick when he failed to convert a penalty.
It mattered little in the grander scheme of things on a day when Celtic’s priority was simply to ensure Aberdeen’s five-point lead at the top of the table was not extended.
For once, Celtic Park was not the centre of the east end of Glasgow’s sporting universe with the Davis Cup semi-final taking place just across the road at the Emirates Arena. At least one Australian was enjoying his afternoon, however, as Tom Rogic provided the spark and inspiration behind this much-needed win for Deila’s men. Rogic, operating in the ‘number ten’ role just behind central striker Leigh Griffiths, was instrumental in a Celtic performance which was vibrant and dominant from the start.
If Dundee had arrived in the hope their hosts might be uncertain and vulnerable after their recent troubles, they were quickly disabused of that notion and were immediately forced on to the back foot. Celtic carved out scoring opportunities with considerable ease, Griffiths blazing the first of them over from close range and then driving a close range shot too close to Scott Bain who made the first of several fine saves.
But the Dundee keeper had no answer to Rogic’s breakthrough strike in the 14th minute. Scott Brown and Izaguirre combined to set it up, the latter cutting the ball back into the path of Rogic who drilled a left-foot volley beyond Bain from around eight yards. There was simply no respite for Dundee as Celtic doubled their lead just two minutes later. This time Rogic turned creator, his pass into the penalty area picking out Griffiths who held off some weak defending before rifling home a left-foot shot from close range.
Dundee did finally threaten a response in the 42nd minute when Craig Gordon had to dive full length to block a Gary Harkins free-kick before Kane Hemmings shanked the loose ball off target from six yards.
Celtic finished the first half firmly in the ascendancy, however, as James Forrest saw a shot deflected against the crossbar before Rogic was yet again defied by Bain as he kept out a sweetly struck left-foot shot from distance.
After the break Izaguirre suddenly seized the limelight. On a day when he had precious little defending to do as Celtic kept their first clean sheet in nine matches, his sense of attacking adventure was rewarded in the 54th minute when he played a terrific one-two with Kris Commons inside the area before rifling a right-foot shot beyond Bain from close range.
Seven minutes later, Izaguirre was in the right place at the right time again when he stabbed home a left-foot shot from a couple of yards after Saidy Janko’s cross from the right had been deflected off Gary Irvine into his path.
Scorer of just three goals for Celtic in his previous five seasons at the club, Izaguirre had the opportunity to double that tally in just one day when he grabbed the ball to take a 65th minute spot-kick awarded for Irvine’s foul on substitute Callum McGregor.
The prospect of becoming the most unlikely of hat-trick heroes proved too much for him to handle, however, as he blasted the penalty wildly over the crossbar.
Dundee’s agony was far from over, however, as Celtic rubbed in their superiority with two late goals. Nadir Ciftci, who had come on for Griffiths, set up Brown to make it 5-0 with a right-foot shot beyond Bain. The Turkish striker then claimed his first goal for Celtic, pouncing on a loose ball before rolling a low shot through Bain’s legs.
SCORERS: Celtic - Rogic (14), Griffiths (16), Izaguirre (54, 61), Brown( 87), Ciftci (87)
Referee: S McLean