SPL v Celtic
CELTIC 2 DUNFERMLINE 0 Date: 22/02/12
Attendance: 45000, Kick Off: 7.45pm.
Referee: Stevie O`Reilly
Injury-hit Dunfermline restricted a buoyant Celtic side to two goals in a match that was a personal triumph for goalkeeper Chris Smith.
Celtic Park is a splendid venue for a floodlight midweek game, and the Hoops fans were anticipating great things ahead of the game following their impressive weekend victory over Hibs at Easter Road.
The Pars showed changes from their weekend draw against Inverness.Out injured was right back Jordan McMillan replaced by Andy Dowie; Martin Hardie and Gary Mason went back to the bench to make way for Paul Burns and Ryan Thomson in a five-man Pars midfield; Striker Andy Kirk was out injured, giving Liam Buchanan the unenviable task of being the lone front man.
Celtic also made four changes from the team that faced Hibs on Sunday - Thomas Rogne, Victor Wanyama, Adam Matthews and James Forrest were replaced by Du-Ri Cha, Emilio Izaguirre, Sung-Yong Ki and Kris Commons. The hostskicked off in front of a three-quarter full Parkhead, and the game plan for both sides soon became clear.Celtic went for a patient build up, spraying the ball wide and often, and Dunfermline retreated to maintain a disciplined defensive 4-5-1 formation.
Celtic won their first corner in 6th minute but this was dealt with comfortably.However, in the next minute Ki Sung Yeung tested Chris Smith with a low drive from 30 yards which the Pars keeper dived left to parry clear. The early stages of the game saw Celtic in control but, unable to break down Dunfermline`s good defences, resorted to long range efforts.
It was such an effort from Ki in 17 minutes that led to another good stop by Smith and provided Celtic with their second corner. Commons tried a shot which was blocked, and from that Dunfermline were able to break and Joe Cardle did well to find Liam Buchanan at the edge of the box. Just as Buchanan looked to get a shot in the Celtic defence recovered and concede their first corner. When the ball was swung over Andy Dowie just failed to connect and it was soon back to normal with the Pars soaking up the pressure.
In 19 minutes Celtic`s best chance so far was created after a tremendous long ball found Hooper clear inside the box but, fortunately for Athletic, unable to finish the move and shot wide. The pressure on the Pars goal increased and Paul Burns did well to clear more danger before Chris Smith made another fine save in 23rd minute, this time from Anthony Stokes.
Smith`s goal had been well-protected and just as the rumblings from the stands were beginning, Celtic took the lead, and what an absolute cracker it was.In the 32nd minute Celtic sought to find a way through Dunfermline`s defences, passing side to side thirty-five yards out from goal, but going nowhere - that is until Charlie MULGREW stepped up from defence to thump home an unstoppable left foot drive that gave Smith no chance. Not a bad way to celebrate his international call up!
Chris Smith made two more saves from Kris Commons before an error in the Celtic defence gave Dunfermline a 39th minute corner. The ball was sent to the back post where Alex Keddie had a free header but in an effort to keep it on target the result was weak and went straight to Forster in the Celtic goal.
With no added time the referee blew for the end of the first half with Celtic just one ahead. Although it has been all Celtic, Cardle and Buchanan tried their best to feed from the scraps of possession so not all was lost.
Half-Time: Celtic 1 Dunfermline Athletic 0
Dunfermline made a change at half-time with stand in skipper Kevin Rutkiewicz, who appeared to have taken a knock in the first half, replaced by Austin McCann to give him his first outing since getting injured against St Mirren in November.
The pattern of the game didn`t change at the start of the second period, but in 50th minute Celtic had a great chance to increase their lead. A good ball from wide left sailed over the heads of the Dunfermline defenders to Anthony Stokes unmarked at the back post. He had time but his shot missed wide right. Then just a minute later an early cross from Boyle found the head of Liam Buchanan ten yards out, but under pressure he headed wide.
Celtic continued their siege of the Dunfermline half and Cha Du Ri found space down the Celtic right flank to cut back to Ledley whose effort went straight to Smith. Then it was the same combination again in 57 minute but this time Ledley`s effort brought out a terrific save from Smith, while Hooper blasted the loose ball well over the bar.
Ryan Thomson was booked before Paul Willis replaced Joe Cardle in 61st minute. Celtic continued to press for the important second goal and Smith came to Pars rescue again with a save from Brown.Celtic`s frustrations increased and at the midpoint of the second half, Neil Lennon made two changes - Forrest and Samaras replacing Izaguirre and Stokes - while Jim McIntyre brought on Martin Hardie for Liam Buchanan.
The immediate effect of the changes was more pressure on the Dunfermline goal and Alex Keddie was called upon to make a saving tackle in 71 minutes.Hardie failed to hold the ball from the clearance and McCann was forced to concede another corner.
In 75 minutes Celtic made the game safe when Hooper was allowed to send over a low cross from the byeline on Celtic`s right.The Pars defence, which had been so vigilant all night, were posted missing as sub James FORREST sneaked in at the back post to net easily.
Dunfermline`s final chance of the evening came in 85th minute when David Graham and Paddy Boyle contrived an opening down the left. However Boyle was forced to shoot on his weaker right foot and the resulting shot went straight to Forster. There was time for one more save by Smith from Commons and a great penalty box tackle by Keddie on Samaras, but Dunfermline never looked like making up any of the deficit and Celtic ran out comfortable winners.
Given the injuries he is currently having to contend with Jim McIntyre went for damage limitation on this trip to Parkhead, and who can blame him against a Celtic side that have been rattling the goals in? As it turned out, a 2-0 defeat in Dunfermline`s last game of the season against either of the Old Firm may be no bad thing, particularly as Hibs went down 4-3 to Motherwell at the same time.
A lot of hard-working performances from Athletic players but a Man of the Match performance from much-maligned goalkeeper Chris Smith who made a succession of good saves and looked confident with his clearances and handling. Without a doubt one of his best games in a Pars jersey - let`s hope that this gives him a much-needed confidence boost.
CELTIC: Fraser Forster; Du-Ri Cha, Charlie Mulgrew, Kelvin Wilson, Emilio Izaguirre (James Forrest 67), Sung-Yong Ki, Joe Ledley, Scott Brown (Pawel Brozek 77), Kris Commons; Gary Hooper, Anthony Stokes (Georgios Samaras 67).
SUBS NOT USED: Daniel Majstorovic, Adam Matthews, Dylan McGeouch, Lukasz Zaluska
SCORERS: Mulgrew (32), Forrest (75)
DUNFERMLINE: Chris Smith; Andy Dowie, Kevin Rutkiewicz (Austin McCann HT), Alex Keddie, Patrick Boyle; David Graham, Paul Burns, Ryan Thomson, Kyle Hutton, Joe Cardle (Paul Willis 60); Liam Buchanan (Martin Hardie 67)
SUBS NOT USED: Steven McDougall, Gary Mason, Shaun Byrne, Ryan Goodfellow (GK).
YELLOW CARD: Thomson (58)
NEXT MATCH (away) SPL v St Johnstone
Saturday 25th February 2012, kick off 3.00pm
Ladbrokes Championship: Saturday 22nd April, Dunfermline v Falkirk kick off 3.00pm