Ian Harkes’ acrobatic diving header brought United up to par in the first half
Celtic coach Ange Postecoglou says Scottish Premiership title is not an “insurmountable challenge” after his side’s difficult start continued with a draw with Dundee United.
A terrific header from Ian Harkes quickly ruined Liel Abada’s opener, leaving Celtic sixth, six points behind leaders Rangers.
The hosts hit the wood three times and Albian Ajeti amazingly missed an open goal from three yards while United turned down a strong penalty claim when Nicky Clark was knocked down.
“It’s a strange league,” said Postecoglou. “You call things early here, don’t you? It’s quite remarkable that people have named the title seven games.
“I don’t pull stumps out after seven games just because other people seem to think there is an insurmountable challenge for us out there.
“I know people want to bump me on an edge of the ledge somewhere. It just won’t happen. “
The young Thomas Courts United showed impressive serenity, withstanding late barrels in a breathless battle to score his first point at Celtic Park in eight years.
They are one point ahead of Celtic in fifth place, while Postecoglous’ already long injury list with Josip Juranovic claimed another victim.
While Celtic had their worst start to a league season in 23 years, they were clear at home with three straight wins, as opposed to three away defeats.
United stopped that record and took advantage of Celtic’s sloppiness. The hosts Celtic provided momentum early on – Juranovic had knocked off a shot from goalkeeper Benjamin Siegrist and Ajeti headed too high – before their wingers made their breakthrough. Jota bounced off the left side and picked up a cross that hit the back post with a pounding header from Abada.
The setback fired United and they were level within two minutes. Finnish winger Ilmari Niskanen ousted Anthony Ralston on the left and his blow was brilliantly handled by Harkes with a header.
Both teams had cause for concern not to take the lead at halftime. United, whose high-profile press kept the Celtic defense unsettled, were amused by referee Kevin Clancy’s decision not to miss a penalty when Cameron Carter-Vickers sent Clark into the air.
At the other end, Ajeti inexplicably fired over an unguarded net and David Turnbull hit the crossbar with a 20-yard blow. Ajeti would be guilty of another blatant miss towards the end of the second half and miss from six meters.
After the break, the men from Postecoglou put pressure on, but lacked persuasiveness in the final third.
Jota looked like her greatest hope for a winner and almost got him off the bar with a dipping drive in the last few minutes. Tom Rogic also rocked the frame of the goal with a header from Jota’s knockdown when Celtic’s late rally missed.
However, United defended diligently and remained a threat on the counterattack. Niskanen was only inches from finding the back corner of the net with a curling stroke and the visitors could have taken a dramatic win when substitute Louis Appere saved a shot just short of the post from Joe Hart.
It took an excellent Carl Starfelt tackle to stop Appere in a two-on-one breakaway while the end-to-end action continued into the last few seconds.
Man of the Game – Ian Harkes
A brilliant goal and an outstanding performance from the midfielder gave United a point
What did we learn?
Celtic can’t get some of their key men back quickly enough. Callum McGregor’s leadership and Kyogo Furuhashi’s graduation skills were sorely missed in an arbitrary performance.
Ajeti could not convince again at the front. The striker will never offer Kyogo’s move, but should at least have seized one of the blatant opportunities presented to him.
United was great for a man. With a young squad with 16-year-old Kerr Smith as their center-back, the Thomas Courts men created all sorts of problems for the hosts.
After Courts defeated the Rangers and held Celtic this season, and a Derby win against Dundee as an encore, the Tannadice men finished fifth.
What did you say
Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou: “Disappointed with the result of course, but in terms of our approach, I think that’s exactly what our fans want to see.
“We created a lot of opportunities, we just didn’t use them. Sometimes that’s how football works. On another day we meet four or five.”
Dundee Utd Head Coach Thomas Courts: “It [the penalty claim] was very legitimate. We saw it at halftime and it was bitterly disappointing.
“It was a big challenge for my players – three games in seven days, including the emotions of a Dundee derby – but they were excellent. I’m really proud of them.”
In the group stage of the Europa League on Thursday (8:00 p.m. CEST), Celtic has a huge task against the formidable German Bayer Leverkusen, before the Premiership in Aberdeen on Sunday (12:00 p.m. CEST).
United want to keep four league games unbeaten against Ross County on Saturday (3:00 p.m.).
Player of the game
11Forever10Are you17thNeves Philip
- 88JuranovicReplaced byMontgomeryat 26 ‘protocol
- 16McCarthyReplaced byserumat 45 ‘protocol
- 10Are you
- 17thNeves Philip
- 22ndFreemanBooked at 90 minutes
- 8thPawlettReplaced byAppearedat 79 ‘protocol
- 66FoxBooked at 15 minutes
- 7thNiskanenReplaced bySpörleat 62 ‘protocol
Game ends, Celtic 1, Dundee United 1.
The second half ends, Celtic 1, Dundee United 1.
Attempt saved. Jota (Celtic) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top left corner. Supported by Adam Montgomery.
Jota (Celtic) hits the bar with a right footed shot from outside the box.
Anthony Ralston (Celtic) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Dylan Levitt (Dundee United).
Attempt saved. Louis Appéré (Dundee United) right footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the center of the goal. Supported by Adrián Spörle.
Corner, celtic. Cashed by Adrián Spörle.
Kieran Freeman (Dundee United) is shown the yellow card.
Foul by Ismaila Soro (Celtic).
Louis Appéré (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt failed. Carl Starfelt (Celtic) header from the center of the box misses to the left. Assisted by David Turnbull with a cross following a corner.
Corner, celtic. Cashed by Adrián Spörle.
Tomas Rogic (Celtic) hits the bar with a head from the center of the box. Supported by Jota with a header pass.
Jota (Celtic) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Kieran Freeman (Dundee United).
Attempt failed. Jota (Celtic) right footed shot from the center of the box is too high. Supported by Tomas Rogic.
Attempt saved. Adrian Spörle (Dundee United) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the center of the goal. Supported by Dylan Levitt.
Substitution (in), Dundee United. Louis Appéré replaces Peter Pawlett.
Attempt failed. Albian Ajeti (Celtic) header from the center of the box misses to the left. Supported by Liel Abada with a flank.