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Dundee United 2 - 2 Celtic: We beat Barca 4 times ...
 

It's funny how different a song can make you feel in the space of 12 minutes.

"We can see you sneaking out!" was the chant sung by the Celtic support as disillusioned United fans headed for the exists after Tony Watt's 80th minute strike looked to have put the game beyond the Tannadice side.

When hearing the same song back to them in reply after a 92nd minute equaliser it had quite a different, and far more enjoyable, ring to it.

The United side saw Jon Daly return to his striking duties to allow Gunning to step back into his central position. This was engineered to counter the speed of Commons and Watt in attack for the opposition.

Douglas made his way back to the starting line up for the first time in 2 months to face up against Scott Brown who had returned from injury. Celtic were without Hooper so Watt started up beside Commons.

 

To say the first half wasn't great from the United perspective would be fair. We looked in awe of the Champions and made insufficient effort to stop them passing the ball around with almost pedestrian pace.

This should have been punished firstly when Thomas Rogne put his header past the post and secondly when Brown missed a free header for 4 yards out.

United did hold on and the pairing of Dillon and Gunning looked to have brought itself back to the form of last season. United were lining up in a 4-3-3 when defending, allowing the wide players to cover the full backs, but when attacking the formation narrowed substantially.

 

Both Armstrong and Russell are naturally central players so it's expected this will happen, but the extent to which it did caused us problems trying to find space.

The knock-on effect was that the defence had to play long balls to nobody as the central midfielders. In short we played right into their hands.

I was pleased to see Russell being moved out to the right hand side when I saw the team set out for the first half. I haven't seen his best in recent weeks and felt this would allow him to get involved in the game.

Sadly, I felt that this was a game for Johnny to forget. His touch was poor at times and he really should have scored after a Willo Flood shot was parried into his path by Forster. Russell has so many qualities in his locker and these are not being utilised. He needs to start working on his positioning and link up play as he isn't getting involved enough in games.

So to summarise, in the first half we stood off them and played too narrow. But what a difference half time can make!

We were all over them! Not in terms of possession or chances, albiet we were holding our own now, but in terms of pressing. This was United circa 2010. The way we were pushing up on them and not giving them time to start up moves or get the ball to the forward players was impressive.

Russell and Armstrong were now pushing up on the full backs. This hadn't been done in the first half and left Daly isolated when trying to close down either central defender.

What happened now was that Daly would push the defender wide and either Matthews or Mulgrew had to find an option quickly. This was a problem as Watson and Douglas were pushed right up on the wide midfielders whilst Rankin and Flood had the central positions covered. They didn't even have the option of a long ball to the strikers as there wasn't any height there.

Ryan was deployed well to stop the balls being played into their feet.

The Celtic goal came when Ryan wasn't there to stop this happening. We were on the offensive and looking to score. Houston made the decision to bring GM-S on for Ryan. A bold move, and one which I was supportive of.

The problem turned out to be our eagerness/impatience. We were so keen to get GM-S into the play that we stopped moving the ball around and tried to play more direct. This opened us up and we were punished for it.

The second goal was merely a poor kick out. I still don't know why Rado insists on using his left when he is right footed. It does seem like he just wants to show off that he is both footed - but not as both footed as he was hoping, it turned out!

The comeback was sensational and entirely unexpected. The introduction of Skacel gave us another option going forward and he was just a few paces short of getting himself on the scoresheet too.

GM-S showed the composure that Russell should have had earlier in the half after a Skacel shot was blocked. We truly had Celtic on the ropes and based on the 2nd half performance we got what we deserved.

An excellent ball in from Douglas (as was his cross for Gunning earlier) put the defender in a position where he had to make contact and ultimately put the ball in his own net.

Summary

This is just what we needed. An exciting, emotionally and exciting jump-start to our season.

We have some tough games coming up but if we can play like we did in the 2nd half I'd expect us to win each and every one of them.

We need to get back to what won us the Scottish Cup. We have been letting teams come at us too often and it's put a lot of pressure on our defence and it has shown.

We need to be piling the pressure on our opposition and with the return of GM-S and the introduction of Skacel, this looks possible. I really hope this is the new dawn rather than a false dawn.

Kevin Taylor

Follow Kevin: @ArabyzeThis

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