Liel Abada the last-gasp hero as Celtic lose another midfielder for Rangers clash
The euphoria, the utterly volcanic eruption across the club’s stadium - and which had manager Ange Postecoglou buried by a mountain of coaching staff - greeting Liel Abada’s 90th minute winner over Dundee United betrayed that those of a Celtic disposition certainly believe as much.
How could they not, when the Parkhead team came so perilously close to blowing a gilt-edged opportunity to move within two points of Rangers ahead of Scottish football’s behemoths squaring up on Wednesday. Oh, those barely perceptible margins. Were football encounters 89 minutes dead, Rangers would not have been pegged back to 3-3 at Dingwall and Celtic would have been held to a scoreless draw desperately damaging in - if following through that scenario - allowing the Ibrox men to extend their cinch Premiership lead to six points.
Instead, Postecoglou’s men are right on their rivals’ tails, and will go top if, for the first time in more than two years, Celtic can emerge victorious from the fixture.
Yet there are absolutely no certainties about what can be expected in that confrontation when considering what their United scrape reaffirmed. For all their flourish and attacking intent, Celtic within their own environs can be peculiarly lacking in penalty area conviction. They have rarely posted any straightforward league wins on their home patch these past four months. And in their 21 game unbeaten run, their most sumptuous displays have almost all come when teams have been more willing to make a game of it in their own surrounds.
Moreover, the success over a Tannadice opponent impressively obdurate - and from whom keeper Benjamin Siegrist produced two outrageous saves - had to be sealed with 10 men.
Two bookable offences from Nir Bitton, both unquestionable, led to the Celtic captain being shown his sixth red card for the club in the 83rd minute…just as the Israeli has been earning universal plaudits for his commanding showings. With Callum McGregor, David Turnbull and Tom Rogic all unavailable for the derby, Celtic will now have four midfielders missing for Rangers’ visit, in addition to the absences of forwards Kyogo Furuhashi and Daizen Maeda.
A clumsy showing in front of goal from Giorgos Giakoumakis following his recent exploits may be a cause of concern. Mind you, the United keeper appeared to defy gravity to get his toe to a point blank effort from the Greek when diving the opposite way little past the hour mark.
However, that could be offset by Abada once again demonstrating what an invaluable contributor he is to the Celtic cause. The 20-year-old looked the player most-likely-to across the entire afternoon, even as a series of chances were squandered.
He eventually earned his deserved reward with a 12th goal of the season that could prove monumentally-important. Jota flipped over a delicious right-wing cross that found the United backline wanting in allowing Abada to bring the ball under control in acres of space.
He followed that up by crashing it high into the net to prompt raucous reverberations so foundation-shaking they almost had the Celtic Park roof crashing down. Instead, Postecoglou’s men now have a midweek opportunity to raise it.
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