Celtic 2 Dunfermline 0: Mulgrew and Forrest send Hoops 20 points clear
They are now partying so hard, the Rolling Stones on tour are in danger of becoming candidates for the Temperance Society in comparison.
The first game at Celtic Park since the club were handed a 10-point gift courtesy of Rangers’ slide into administration was always going to be a high-octane affair.
They came to gloat at the misery of their most bitter rivals and, my goodness, how they rubbed it in.
There have been more sparkling displays from Neil Lennon’s side this season but, in truth, the narrow margin of defeat flattered Dunfermline.
Off the mark: Celtic run to praise Charlie Mulgrew after his opener
Celtic: Forster, Cha, Kelvin Wilson, Mulgrew, Izaguirre (Forrest 67), Commons, Brown (Brozek 77), Ki, Ledley, Stokes (Samaras 67), Hooper. Subs not used: Zaluska, Matthews, Majstorovic, McGeough.
Scorers: Mulgrew 32, Forrest 75.
Dunfermline: Smith, Dowie, Rutkiewicz (McCann 46), Keddie, Boyle, Graham, Burns, Thomson, Hutton, Cardle (Willis 60), Buchanan (Hardie 67). Subs not used: Goodfellow, Mason, McDougall, /02/22/article-2105070-11DDB046000005DC-999_634x361.jpg” width=”634″ height=”361″ alt=”Party time at Parkhead: Mulgrew puts Celtic in front with a sizzling drive” class=”blkBorder” />
Party time at Parkhead: Mulgrew puts Celtic in front with a sizzling drive
Having put five past Hibernian on
Saturday, home advantage against the league’s other prime relegation
candidates looked a sure thing on paper. This, therefore, was as much a
test of attitude and application as anything else.
Ki Sung Yueng tested Smith’s nerve after eight minutes with a low, raking drive which the Pars keeper solidly fielded.
A muddled short corner allowed the
Fifers to break and, when Joe Cardle left Emilio Izaguirre for dead,
suddenly the yellow-shirted visitors were two on one.
But with Liam Buchanan screaming for
the ball at the far post, Cardle delayed an instant too long allowing
Cha Du-Ri to knock the ball out for a corner with an excellent tackle.
Hooper passed up the best opening of
the early exchanges after being sent clear by Scott Brown. With the
stadium anticipating his trademark predator’s finish, Smith stuck out a
leg to deny the striker his moment.
With Buchanan Dunfermline’s only
striker, the onus was on Celtic to breach the compact yellow barrier
between them and the goal but it proved anything but easy.
Sealing the deal: The victory was only secured when Forrest doubled the lead 15 minutes from time
Anthony Stokes forced Smith into a
good block high to his right after making the most of half a yard but
when Izaguirre returned the ball to Commons he failed to hit the target
from eight yards.
Alex Keddie’s positional sense denied
Ki from finding the top corner, then Smith was the equal of Hooper’s
header following Commons’ centre.
Just as Dunfermline’s confidence was beginning to soar, Celtic struck. Ironically, the move stemmed from an error by Cha.
Not for the first time, he failed to get his cross beyond the first man, forcing Ki to stretch and find Mulgrew.
The awkwardness of the midfielder’s
pass gave Mulgrew much work to do. It was a tell-tale sign of his
current mindset that once in control of the ball, planting it beyond
the keeper from 25 yards seemed entirely possible.
His left-footer curled and dipped and
flashed beyond Smith before he could even begin to get the measure of
it. A sixth goal of the season to cap just about a perfect four days.
Hooper showed greater appetite to
bounce Keddie off the ball and feed Commons with the proceeds, the
midfielder’s shot going straight down Smith’s throat.
Commons was, at times, operating a
shoot-on-sight policy and, in the dying minutes of the first period, he
forced the resilient Smith to fist away a fierce drive from 20 yards.
Dunfermline gave Celtic a timely
reminder that there was much football to be played yet when Keddie
warmed Fraser Forster’s hands with a free header from Cardle’s corner.
Spelling it out: Celtic fans make their feelings clear about Rangers going into administration
The Pars, who swapped Austin McCann
for Kevin Rutkiewicz at the break, were given their free pass by Celtic
five minutes into the second period.
Keddie flicked Hooper’s cross into
Stokes’ path yet, despite having the target at his mercy, he fired wide
from eight yards. It rather summed up his night.
Cha’s crossing improved and Joe Ledley almost capitalised on one centre, only for Smith to smother.
Hooper was next to find the Pars keeper back on form but then ballooned
horribly over the bar after Ledley’s effort had been parried.
The ‘missed chances’ count continued to rise but still the deficit remained one goal.
Only Izaguirre’s positioning on the
line prevented the Pars capitalising on Celtic’s profligacy, when he
blocked Ryan Thomson’s header from substitute Paul Willis’ corner.
Ki drifted away from three tackles to
tee up Scott Brown. Yet another reflex save from Smith denied the
skipper at the cost of a corner.
All anxiety in the home ranks was
removed with 15 minutes remaining when Hooper battled to win the ball in
the corner and cross. As the Pars back four left it for each other,
Forrest gambled by stretching and converting at the far post.
Commons, twice, and Hooper came close to adding to the margin of victory but it was a night on which goalkeeper Smith excelled.
It’s now 19 and counting…