Knock a Hole in McCann

Celtic begin a run of three away games over the next week with the continued defence of the League Cup that last season marked our one hundredth major trophy and the first under Brendan Rodgers.

Last month, Kilmarnock were hammered 5-0 meaning it’s still Alex Schalk of Ross County in the 2015/16 semi final that was the last goal we conceded in this tournament. Five teams have come and gone since then, and we’ll be hoping that Dundee become the sixth as we look to make next month’s semi final at Hampden.

We last faced Dundee in the League Cup almost exactly ten years ago. September 26th, 2007 to be precise. Scott McDonald gave Celtic the lead just before the half hour mark after Dundee had twice hit the woodwork. Derek Riordan then missed a penalty early in the second half, but Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink doubled Celtic’s lead on the hour mark. Kevin McDonald pulled a goal back with twenty minutes remaining but Celtic held on, only to get knocked out at home by Hearts in the next round.

The last time we met Dundee at this stage of the competition was in 1999, when Hugh Dallas did what he loves to do and sent Stephane Mahe off – with a bit of help from the linesman who had actually seen Mahe kick out at his opponent. Despite that set back, and the fact Henrik Larsson had broken his leg about six weeks before this match, Celtic won the match thanks to a last minute Morten Wieghorst winner. This was of course under John Barnes, and he had departed by the time the semi final against Kilmarnock came around. Under Kenny Dalglish we won that and the final against Aberdeen, so it was a brief highlight in an otherwise dismal season.

Dundee are hoping to reach the semi-final for the first time since 2003/04, a season where we were knocked out at the quarter final stage away to Hibernian. Dundee lost their semi final to Livingston, while Hibs added to their triumph over us by beating Rangers too. Of course, they then Hibsed it and lost the final to an administration hit Livingston.

Incidentally. those two actually met last night for the first time in this competition since that final.

Dundee haven’t reached the final of this competition since losing to Aberdeen in 1995/96, and haven’t won the tournament since 1973/74 when a side containing Tommy Gemmell beat Celtic 1-0 thanks to a Gordon Wallace goal. That was their last of three victories, having lost the 1980/81 final as well as that 1995/95 final. That one in the early 80s must have hurt more than most, considering it was Dundee United that beat them that day.

It’s worth noting, also, that their 1973/74 triumph was their third final win in just four final appearances. Their only final defeat in those first four came against Celtic in 1967/68, when two goals from Stevie Chalmers as well as one each from John Hughes, Bobby Lennox and Willie Wallace helped Celtic overcome a Dundee side who scored three of their own. Two goals from George McLean and one from a certain Jim McLean who would later go on to be far more famous as a manager across the road at Tannadice.

That was the third of five victories in a row in this tournament for Celtic, with that run finally coming to an end in 1970/71. Interestingly, that season also saw us face Dundee in the then two-legged quarter final.

Having drawn the first leg 2-2 at Dens Park, Celtic won the home leg 5-1. Lou Macari, John Hughes and Harry Hood had given Celtic a 3-0 lead at half time, and just a few minutes into the second half Jock Stein decided to bring off Hughes and give a youngster named Paul Wilson his debut. It took Wilson just seventeen minutes to score on that debut, coming just a few minutes after Dundee had pulled a goal back.

Macari completed the scoring with a couple of minutes to go, but that game was to be the first of 214 games that Wilson would play for Celtic over the next eight years. It was the first of his 52 goals for the club, a number that includes four goals in four finals in 1974/75 – scoring in the Dryborough Cup, League Cup, Scottish Cup and Glasgow Cup finals at Hampden that season.

Sadly, Paul passed away on Monday at the age of just 66. May he rest in peace.

This season’s Dundee reached the quarter final stage courtesy of two matches against their city rivals. With both teams having beaten Raith Rovers, Cowdenbeath and Buckie Thistle, the final round of games saw the two play out a 1-1 draw at Dens Park. The bonus point went to United who won the penalty shootout to top the group, but the two were immediately paired once more for the second round tie, again at Dens Park.

In that match, Faissal El-Bakhtaoui opened the scoring after half an hour before Billy King pegged them back just before half time. Former Celt Paul McGowan grabbed the winner just after the hour mark and the draw immediately after the match paired Neil McCann’s men with Celtic.

Although they’ve obviously done well in the League Cup so far this season, in the league it’s been far from great for Dundee. An opening day defeat at home to Ross County was followed by defeats away to Hamilton and Aberdeen before picking up their first point at home to Hibernian. A 4-1 hammering at Ibrox came after the international break, but they picked up their first league win of the season on Saturday with a 3-2 victory at home to St Johnstone.

They’ll be looking to build on that win as well as a decent performance the last time Celtic visited Dens Park.

Back in March, just after Tommy Gemmell had sadly passed away and a minute’s silence was held in memory of a man who had worn the colours of both teams, it took until injury time in the first half for Jozo Simunovic to open the scoring. Early in the second half, Stuart Armstrong doubled our lead but by the end of the game we were hanging on a bit as El-Bakhtaoui’s terrific long range effort had pulled a goal back for the hosts. We saw out the 2-1 win, but that defeat for Dundee was part of seven in a row that eventually saw Paul Hartley lose his job and Neil McCann take over.

We’ve not had a chance to face the former Sky pundit since he took over, but hopefully by the end of the game tonight he’s wishing he was back in the studio talking about how teams should be able to beat Celtic rather than being the latest one failing to do that.

Krys (Twitter @krys1888)

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