How Celtic were out of this world but Dundee United out of their minds in Tannadice tanking
As it felt the goals were being fizzed in from all angles by Ange Postecoglou’s men at Tannadice in an almighty, sensational, blitz over a shot-to-pieces Dundee United, renditions of the old Lonnie Donegan number with the refrain ‘piling on the agony, putting on the style’ has never felt felt so apposite.
It is a relic from a mere seven-goal spree – the record 7-1 League Cup final bleaching of Rangers in 1957. Yet, even as it began to be heard with Kyogo Furuhashi completing a hat-trick in added time of the first period to make it, eh, just the 3-0, the sentiments easily translated to what was unfolding at Tayside. They proved prophetic too, with the seven racked up before the hour. Before the eighth took, surprisingly, another 17 minutes, that strike providing Liel Abada with his first triple for the club. The most frightening of frighteningly lop-sided encounters doesn’t begin to describe it. The ultimate one-sided encounter might be more accurate. It was an evisceration in which Celtic were imperious while Jack Ross’s men proved excruciatingly inept. Consider what it says about the contrasting direction of travel for the Scottish champions and a Tannadice team now sporting the horrible, haunted look of cinch Premiership relegation contenders.
Goals are being served up in huge helpings in their outings; Celtic bagging them, United taking eye-watering beatings because of the concession of them. Postecoglou’s men have now plundered 21 goals in five straight league wins. Ross’s men, five games without a victory, have now coughed up a vomit-inducing 24 goals in that spell. Their manager used to have a penchant for wearing tight-fitting clothes. Even if he chose to stick on a size 52-collared shirt, he would feel it was choking him right now. Little over two months in post, he has presided over the joint-worst European defeat for a Scottish club owing to the 7-0 mauling in Alkmaar, and, with this spectacular 9-0 flailing, the nation’s biggest home top flight defeat of this millennium.
As always with such slayings, it was difficult to fathom if Celtic were just out of this world, or the Tannadice men out of their minds in allowing Postecoglou’s men to pick them off at will. Impossible to pin down in final third, they could pierce their opponents down either flank with their slick passing and movement with such incredible ease. United’s high line played into their hands, and with Matt O’Riley, Reo Hatate and the front three of Furuhashi, Abada and Jota constantly on the move, they left their tangerine shirted markers looking like training ground cones. The rout - which followed a six-minute break for Joe Hart to receive treatment after being caught in the head accidently by Steven Fletcher - began in the fashion it would progress. A quarter of an hour in, Abada had the presence of mind to pick out Jota down the left as he burst forward in tandem with a then offside Furuhashi. The cross in from the Portuguese found the striker in play to control the ball and drill into the corner. His second goal after 40 minutes was a glorious hit. The ubiquitious O’Riley nicked the ball off Scott McMann to push it into his path 22 yards out, but even then there still seemed little danger. Until he connected so sweetly to curl sublimely into the top corner. So began a run of six goals in 20 minutes of actual playing time, his hat-trick completed in added time of the opening period when United were slashed to ribbons by O’Riley sweeping over a cross cut back to him by Abada. O’Riley was creator extraordinaire again at the end of the six minutes played for the Hart’s injury stoppage. Slipped in by Abada down the right channel, he centred for Jota to tap in.
Celtic remained ravenous when the whistle sounded for the second period to begin, as United returned in body but not spirit from the dressing room. By then, the home stands had largely emptied but the fact that any of the United faithful stayed suggested they have a strain within their support that must be prone to masochism. On the pitch, their team gave the impression of not still being around as Celtic passed round, through and beyond them. It was as if they were faced with 22 not 11 players as they seemed unable to quell Celtic’s maurading. There were no tackles, tugs or frustrations in evidence, just acceptance. It could have been 15-0 all-too-easily as goal no.5 arrived in 50 minutes when Jota fed O’Riley and he in turn knocked inside for Abada to side-foot in. The sixth five minutes later was cringeworthy as Josip Juranovic had an edge of the area free-kick blocked by the United wall – a block! – only to squeeze a second shooting attempt past keeper Carjahan Eriksson at his near post. A desperate moment for the home men to add to a warehouse full of them. Likewise, when Abada was able to stroke in from a Hatate byline cut-back just before the hour.
It could be read as Postecoglou taking pity on Ross and his men that Furuhashi, Jota, O’Riley and Hatate were then all withdrawn. But still the flogging continued, Abada bringing up his triple with the simplest touch to turn in a low cross from Daizen Maeda 77 minutes in before Carl Starfelt headed in Celtic’s final goal. Inside this no.9 will be dark and twisted reflections for an abject United.
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