Celtic don’t lose at Dens Park. So has been the way in recent decades anyway. Bottom of the table Dundee don’t win – not this season at least. Last night’s outcome was therefore entirely predictable even if the scale of defeat dismayed even the most pessimistic Dundee fan.
No wonder some bookies were quoting odds of 12-1 on a Dundee win. Tom Rogic continued his fine form of late to open the scoring after 20 minutes. Further goals from Scott Sinclair from the penalty spot, James Forrest and Odsonne Edouard meant a strong Celtic line-up had wrapped up the points by the interval.
New Dundee manager Jim McIntyre’s half-time message will have echoed that heard down the years in Sunday League dressing-rooms: Just try to win the second half. Dundee conceded again three minutes into it. Ryan Christie ran through Dundee’s static defence to slip the ball past Jack Hamilton, who was by now wearing a haunted look. Celtic have now won four successive league games, something they failed to do last season.
It was as if the game was played in fast forward. The winners were established around half an hour in. All six substitutions were made before the 70th minute, by which time most Dundee fans had headed for the exit.
A couple of flares thrown onto the pitch from the visiting supporters’ end created some reason to stick around towards the end of the first-half, with some mild friction between the two sets of fans evident in that part of the ground.
The only other negative for Celtic involved the continued travails of Daniel Arzani. Having taken so long to make his debut, the Manchester City loanee was carried off only 25 minutes after replacing Edouard following a collision with Jesse Curran.
Rogic’s opener was the eighth goal McIntyre has seen flash into the Dundee net since his appointment. Four more followed without reply. His new side have yet to score under him. There comes a time when the new incumbent has to take responsibility for performances that have, if anything, deteriorated under him.
The phrase hope springs eternal is particularly applicable to this fixture as far as the hosts are concerned. Not since 1988, when Tommy Coyne shot past Alan Rough, have Dundee beaten Celtic at Dens Park – now a total of 31 meetings ago. Rarely have they been in such dire straits in the intervening period either: Dundee have now suffered seven straight home league defeats.
The initial signs were alarming for Dundee fans who were surprised by McIntyre’s decision to play a back four, with Genseric Kusunga, only ever seen before at centre-half, deployed at left-back. Former Celtic player Darren O’Dea and Ryan Inniss sought to shore up the middle of the defence. They were always likely to be stretched beyond breaking point and so it proved.
This was a stroll for the champions from the moment Rogic brought to an end a period of sustained pressure by wondering: why not just curl the ball into the far corner of the net from the edge of the box? It looked this casual. Hamilton made an attempt to save but the shot looked in from the moment it left the Australian’s left boot. Rogic barely bothered to celebrate.
It was already threatening to prove a very long night for the hosts. They could certainly have done without conceding a soft penalty, awarded after Mikael Lustig fell to the ground following Innes’ attempted intervention. The Dundee defender had seemed to try to pull out of the challenge but Alan Muir immediately pointed to the spot. Sinclair converted his second penalty in successive matches.
Celtic looked likely to score each time they went forward. A Kieran Tierney cut back saw Forrest slide in to flash a shot past Hamilton six minutes before half-time. The last thing Dundee needed was reason for the half to last longer. Sadly for them this was the case when Benjamin Kallman sustained a head knock in a challenge with Dedryck Boyata as Dundee made a rare foray in their opponents’ box. Muir added two minutes on and Celtic duly scored in this extra window of opportunity, Edouard turning in Forrest’s cross.
Three minutes after the interval Celtic had a fifth, Christie running on to Edouard’s through ball to hand manager Brendan Rodgers another reason to give the player’s contract situation some urgent attention.