Dundee 2-1 Dundee United: Dens men reclaim bragging rights

Not much time had elapsed since the derby rivals last met but, in just over a week, there had been enough changes in personnel to give this Betfred Cup tie some freshness.

Faissal El Bakhtaoui slides to his knees to celebrate after opening the scoring for Dundee with an unstoppable shot. Picture: SNS
Faissal El Bakhtaoui slides to his knees to celebrate after opening the scoring for Dundee with an unstoppable shot. Picture: SNS
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While the absence of suspended Dundee captain Darren O’Dea was an enforced one, there were other tweaks to the line-ups, as both managers looked for a way to gain an edge,

Although the last encounter had ended in stalemate, United emerged from the group clash with the bragging rights, after they gained the upperhand and the bonus point in the penalty shootout. The damage that day wasn’t debilitating, with both sides still progressing to the knockout stage but there would be no such luxury this time. Win or bust.

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Playing a high pressing game and giving their guests no time to settle, Dundee were an attacking threat from the outset. United had added experience and quality to their line-up, with manager Ray McKinnon giving both Scott McDonald and Fraser Fyvie starting berths. But it was doing the Tannadice side little good as Dundee made it virtually impossible for either to get on the ball or influence play. At the back United looked rattled as they struggled to buffer wave after wave of their rivals’ forward forays.

Pulling all the strings, the Premiership side set their sights on Harry Lewis’s goal, camping out in United’s half and the only concern for manager Neil McCann at that time was how many opportunities were going abegging. As an effort squirmed past the post from a fourth-minute corner, and Glen Kamara, Marcus Haber, Faissal El Bakhtaoui then saw their attempts all miss the target, the nerves in the stands began to shred.

The game was still in its infancy when a long ball was played forward from the left-back berth. Nodded on by Haber for El Bakhtaoui, the attacker played the ball inside but while Kamara tried to get his shot away, he was crowded out by the visiting defence and the danger was cleared, albeit temporarily. That was all it ever was because time and again, Dundee came back at them.

Paul McGowan was the supplier the next time the home side threatened and his ball into the back post was headed down by Haber, only to be denied by the far post as the effort skimmed it and squirmed wide.

El Bakhtaoui was working hard to help craft the openings but he was profligate with the early ones that came his way. He wasn’t the only one, though.

After Haber had used his physicality to bundle his way upfield he picked out Scott Allan with a crossfield pass only for the on-loan Celtic midfielder to balloon it over, Tam Scobbie was one of those who had tried and failed to halt the big Dundee striker as he advanced and he paid the price, forced off injured, to be replaced by Jamie Robson.

In his absence his colleagues continued to firefight as McGowan and Co took control of the midfield and ensured the supply to Dundee’s front line rarely dried up. It paid off eventually when El Bakhtaoui finally found the net.

The opener came in the 30th minute, when United again attempted to clear their lines, but got it only as far as the edge of the area, where the Moroccan was waiting to pull it down and then drill an unstoppable shot high into Lewis’s goal.

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It gave them a merited lead but their inability to build on it and make their possession count came back to haunt them.

In the 40th minute, United counter-attacked through Sam Stanton, who made it to the byeline before zipping a low ball across the danger area for the inrushing Billy King to stab in at the back post.

As one stand partied, there was stunned disbelief in the others. It gave Dundee it all to do again in the second half.

Slightly more open, the home side still had the best of it but with such a tight scoreline United remained in it. Even after McGowan scored what proved to be the winner in the 64th minute, there was little relief, not when just one goal could see United back in it.

The goal was a belter, hit first time from just inside the box. United refused to give up and right until the last kick of the game had fleeting moments of promise. But in a 90 minutes controlled by Dundee, those moments were only ever fleeting and the home side headed into the quarter-final draw.