OVER to you, Aberdeen. The Pittodrie side must secure a victory against Dundee United later this afternoon in order to ensure a new government is sworn in before they are finally counted out of the title race.
Scorers: Celtic - Griffiths (30), Brown (37), Commons (71 pen), Forrest (77), Biton (88)
Rather than rosettes, it is ribbons that are of interest to Celtic, who took five giant strides towards the title last night. Goals by Leigh Griffiths, Scott Brown, Kris Commons, James Forrest and Nir Bitton, who struck from 40 yards, gave Celtic a landslide victory over a poor Dundee side.
Their lead over the red challengers has now stretched to 11 points. The swingometer will have to swing off its hinges to illustrate the turnaround required.
Now Celtic must wait to see if Aberdeen will be kind enough to put the lid on the trophy for them by failing to win against Dundee United this afternoon. If not, and Derek McInnes’s side can claim the victory they need to at least postpone Celtic’s coronation, then manager Ronny Delia won’t be too disappointed.
He is due to be in Norway this weekend on a visit to see his twin daughters. By the time he gets back, his principal task after being appointed last summer may well have been completed. If not, the focus will move on eight days to next Sunday afternoon, when Aberdeen host Celtic in a clash that might otherwise have been considered a mouth-watering one.
If the issue is still alive then, rather than continuing to try to overhaul Celtic at the top, Aberdeen will simply be doing all they can to prevent the visitors rubbing their noses in it by earning the point confirming them as champions. This was another fairly painless evening for Celtic, who completed their own Dundee trilogy with a third victory in nine days over sides from the city.
Wins over Dundee have sandwiched the 3-0 triumph at United last weekend, and last night Griffiths continued his personal run of good form with the opening goal.
The fact that five different players scored Celtic’s goals highlighted how much better in every area of the park they were.
There was not quite the same level of fervour as some were remembering from the last occasion Celtic hosted Dundee when on the verge of clinching the league title. On that day, a Saturday afternoon in April 1988, Celtic swept the visitors aside in front of more than 60,000 to secure the title on the way to winning the double in their centenary season.
On this Friday evening in May, there was not such congestion at the turnstiles, nor was there anything like as much anticipation. Rather, it was more a case of the inevitable almost – almost – having become reality.
The only thing in common with that afternoon 27 years ago was a dead dog of a game. Dundee were even less of a complication than in 1988, when they lost 3-0.
First-half goals by Griffiths, his eighth in his last six appearances, and Brown dulled the ardour of even the most optimistic Aberdeen supporter. As for the Dundee fans, they were once again witnesses to what felt like a Celtic coronation.
They have suffered as much as anyone at the hands of Celtic this season. Since holding them to a draw at Dens in September, Dundee have lost all four meetings with the Parkhead side, including once in the Scottish Cup. Griffiths, their former player, has proved a constant menace. Indeed, it was against Dundee that the striker got his season underway with the first of his 19 strikes to date.
Dundee manager Paul Hartley had made some encouraging noises pre-match about coming to have a go. He was alert to the fact the game was on television and also that, after admirably securing a top six place, Dundee’s season was in danger of fizzling out in rather disappointing fashion.
This was their fourth defeat in a row, although two of these games have been against Celtic. Luka Tankulic started his first game since January and was an isolated figure in attack. Dundee offered a brief suggestion they might prove awkward visitors. If clearly not here to open up Celtic, they looked doughty at first, with Kevin Thomson mopping up play at the back.
But there was always danger afoot. Brown lashed one effort wide early on and then Griffiths found the side-netting with an effort. Dundee survived a penalty shout after Stefan Johansen tumbled under a challenge by Thomson, whose own desperation to halt the player was a result of him having given the ball away in a dangerous area.
Somehow Dundee held out until the half-hour mark before Griffiths broke the deadlock. The striker beat a lame aerial challenge by Thomas Konrad to head strong past Scott Bain after a cross by Emilio Izaguirre that begged to be attacked.
Seven minutes later, Dundee’s hopes were all but extinguished when Brown finished off a neat move involving Gary Mackay-Steven and Commons, who played his skipper in with a neat reverse pass.
The second half continued the trend set in the opening period. Celtic finally got the penalty they felt they deserved earlier in the game when Stephen McGinn bundled over substitute Darnel Fisher in the box after a clever chip by Bitton.
Commons took care of the the 71st-minute kick with his customary panache before Forrest made it four after 77 minutes with a fine angled finish following a thrilling run from the halfway line. Bitton casually stroked a stunning effort into the corner of the net from fully 40 yards with two minutes left.
It capped a bloodless victory, but one that could yet stand as Celtic’s most significant win of the season providing Aberdeen are unable to respond today.