The previous 2 games had seen Celtic beaten for the first time this season following a very poor display at St Johnstone, followed by a battling display against Benfica that brought the first Champions League point of the campaign.
It was essential for the team to pick up all 3 points on Saturday as they strive to get into their rhythm domestically and reclaim their place at the top of the league. The hope was that this would also be accompanied by a much improved performance and we thankfully got both of these wishes.
The team selection was strong, sticking to the 4-4-2 formation that we expect to see regularly throughout the season. I felt that injuries to Lustig and Miku had a significant bearing on selection and possibly bought a bit of time for players struggling with form.
Had Lustig been fit and selected (which his performance on Wednesday merited) then I felt that Mulgrew would have been deployed either at left back or left midfield in place of Izaguirre or Forrest. As it was, he ended up moving back into defence ahead of the new bhoy Ambrose and the out of favour Thomas Rogne.
Commons and Forrest provided the width in midfield alongside Brown and Wanyama and we got to see the introduction of Lassad up front alongside Gary Hooper, with Miku sidelined by injury. There were also welcome returns to the squad for Paddy McCourt and Dylan McGeoch following injury.
Dundee had the best chance early on when a shot by Nish was blocked and the resulting rebound was blasted over the bar by Baird, a lucky escape for Celtic who had only a few half chances by this stage.
For Celtic, Lassad had started brightly and showed a good touch with the ball at his feet to go with his obvious physical presence. It made a pleasant change to see a genuine target man leading the line for Celtic, the first I can remember since the days of Sutton and Hartson.
Yet again Commons was instrumental in almost everything good that was happening for Celtic. His clever passing and incisive running was much needed against a stubborn Dundee rearguard that had plenty of players behind the ball.
Ex-Celt Rab Douglas was having a fine game for the visitors denying both Lassad and Forrest with good saves. After having an earlier penalty shout turned down, Lassad was upended again after 38 minutes giving Celtic a clear penalty.
The normally reliable Scott Brown stepped up but struck his penalty at the perfect height for Douglas to throw a hand out and turn the ball over the bar. Brown did not let this miss affect his game though and was instrumental in Celtic finally taking the lead on the stroke of half time.
His run and clever through ball on the edge of the Dundee box found its way to Gary Hooper who produced a lovely touch to knock it past the last defender before smashing the ball past the helpless Douglas. Watching the goal you were left wondering why it has taken him 5 games to open his SPL account this season, such was the quality of the finish.
Celtic were eager to get the game won as early as possible and were nearly gifted a 2nd goal by Gary Irvine shortly after the restart. His clever chested pass back beat Douglas but was kept out by the post. This was only a temporary respite as shortly afterwards Celtic were 2 up following another excellent strike. Izzaguire found Wanyama 20 yards out and his first time strike off the post left the keeper with no chance.
Watching Wanyama throughout the game was like seeing an adult join in a game of football with a group of children, such is his strength on the ball and his ability to swat aside his opponents. We should savour every minute of the big fella this season as it will take a minor miracle to hang onto him for too long.
Celtic could and should have scored a few more goals in this game. Douglas pulled off further great saves from Lassad and Forrest, and only desperate defending, the post and the offside flag denied Watt a goal and Hooper a hat-trick.
The latter stages of the match saw two popular substitutions with McGeoch returning to first team action and Ambrose making his debut alongside Wanyama in midfield. Ambrose and Wanyama looked like a couple of top level bouncers together, never mind football players and they offer a significant physical presence in the middle of the park. However, I expect to see Ambrose move into defence when he makes his first start.
Although the scoreline did not reflect the team’s dominance, the display certainly gave indication of much better league results ahead, hopefully starting with our visit to table-topping Motherwell on Saturday.
BrummieBhoy Internet Bampot MOM award for Dundee game goes to Victor Wanyama
Celtic play their first domestic cup game tomorrow against Raith Rovers. I have already stated my view that the Scottish League Cup is of little significance to the club this season, especially now we have qualified for the Champions League group stages.
Whilst the winning of a treble is always nice, it is more about historical reference and bragging rights for me. I would have been happy to see us play our development squad in every round of this competition, irrespective of the opposition and including the final but I doubt very much this will happen.
I think that Lenny will still harbour some regrets at our failure to win either of the domestic cups last season, despite the great opportunities that we had. Therefore, expect us to field a strong team although this will also meet the need to blood some new players and give match time to those returning from injury.
I am expecting to see a line up along these lines – Zaluska; Matthews, Rogne, Ambrose, Izaguirre; McGeoch, Ledley, Mulgrew, McCourt; Hooper, Watt. We shouls also see appearences from Ibrahim and Kayal at some point.
Whatever team we put out we should have enough to overcome Raith Rovers but we know how unpredictable these games can sometimes be.
Prediction – Celtic 3-1 (Lassad, Watt 2)
Saturday sees us travel to Fir Park to take on league leaders Motherwell in a rare 3pm Saturday kick-off. This game could be the ideal spark that the team need to find its best form, reminiscent of the 2-1 victory there last season that saw us go onto a league winning run.
We know what to expect physically from a Stuart McCall team and we need to ensure that we win the battle and allow our footballers to dictate the game. It’s also a great test before we head to Moscow for a crucial CL game.
With this in mind I would like to see the following team start both games, again subject to fitness and availability. Forster; Matthews, Ambrose, Wilson, Mulgrew; Wanyama, Brown, Ledley; Samaras, Commons, Hooper.
Prediction – Celtic 2-1 (Hooper, Commons)
Liam (twitter @BrummieBhoy)