Celtic coach Ange Postecoglou said the Scottish Premiership title was not an “insurmountable challenge” after his side’s difficult start continued with a draw against Dundee United.
A superb header from Ian Harkes quickly called off Liel Abada’s opener to leave Celtic sixth, six points behind leaders Rangers.
The hosts hit the woodwork three times and Albian Ajeti surprisingly missed an open goal from three yards, while United saw a strong penalty claim rejected when Nicky Clark was downed.
âIt’s a weird league,â Postecoglou said. âYou call it early here, don’t you? It’s pretty remarkable that seven in-person games are already calling the title.
âI don’t pull stumps after seven games just because other people seem to think there’s some kind of insurmountable challenge for us.
“I know people want to push me somewhere on some kind of ledge on the ledge. It just won’t happen.”
The young United of Thomas Courts showed impressive composure and weathered a late play-off in a breathless contest to score his first point at Celtic Park in eight years.
They are a point above Celtic in the fifth, while Postecoglou’s already long injury list claimed Josip Juranovic another victim.
While Celtic have had their worst league start in 23 years, they have been impeccable at home with three straight wins in stark contrast to three away losses.
United stopped that record and took advantage of Celtic’s neglect. Celtic hosts quickly picked up their momentum – Juranovic saw a shot knocked back by goalkeeper Benjamin Siegrist and Ajeti headed too high – before their wingers combined for the breakthrough. Jota took off to the left and cut to swing over a cross that met a thumping header from Abada at the back post.
The backhand galvanized United and they were tied in two minutes. Finnish winger Ilmari Niskanen overtook Anthony Ralston on the left and his whipped delivery was brilliantly converted by Harkes with a diving header.
Both sides had reason to feel aggrieved not to have a lead at half-time. United, whose high press has disrupted Celtic’s defense throughout, were baffled by referee Kevin Clancy’s decision not to award a penalty when Cameron Carter-Vickers sent Clark to sprawl out.
At the other end, Ajeti inexplicably soared over an unguarded net and David Turnbull sent a 20-yard strike against the bar. Ajeti would be guilty of another blatant failure late in the second half, with a six-meter wide header.
Postecoglou’s men put on the pressure after the break, but lacked conviction in the final third.
Jota looked like their best hope to win and almost got it with a plunging bar kick in the dying minutes. Tom Rogic also rocked the frame of the goal with a header from Jota’s knockdown as Celtic’s late rally failed.
United, however, defended diligently and remained a danger on the counterattack. Niskanen was inches away from finding the far corner of the net with a curling strike, and the visitors could have scored a spectacular victory when substitute Louis Appere was saved by Joe Hart.
It then took a superb tackle from Carl Starfelt to stop Appere in a two-on-one breakaway as the end-to-end action continued until the final seconds.
Man of the Match – Ian Harkes
What have we learned?
Celtic are failing to get some of their key men back fast enough. Callum McGregor’s leadership and Kyogo Furuhashi’s final prowess were much lacking in a random display.
Ajeti has yet to convince up front. The attacker will never propose Kyogo’s move, but should have converted at least one of the glaring opportunities that lay before him.
United, for a man, was superb. With a young side with 16-year-old Kerr Smith at center-back, Thomas Courts’ men have caused all kinds of trouble for the hosts.
After beating Rangers and holding Celtic this season, and a derby victory over Dundee for good measure, Courts put Tannadice’s men easily in fifth.
What did they say?
Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou: “Obviously disappointed with the result, but in terms of approach I think that’s exactly what our supporters want to see.
“We created a lot of chances, we just didn’t grab them. Sometimes football goes that way. Another day we score four or five.”
Dundee Utd Head Coach Thomas Courts: “This [the penalty claim] was very legitimate. We watched it at halftime and it was bitterly disappointing.
“It was a big demand for my players – three games in seven days, including the thrill of a Dundee derby – but they were exceptional. I’m really proud of them.”
Celtic have an intimidating mission against in-form Germans Bayer Leverkusen in the Europa League group stage on Thursday (8 p.m. BST), before a Premiership trip to Aberdeen on Sunday (12 p.m.).
United are looking to score four league games unbeaten when they host Ross County on Saturday (3:00 p.m.).
Player of the match
Squad number11Player nameAbada
Squad number15Player nameStag
Squad number17Player nameJota
Squad number14Player nameTurnbull
Squad number56Player nameRalston
Squad number20Player nameCarter-Vickers
Squad number18Player nameRogic
Squad number88Player nameJuranovic
Squad number16Player nameMccarthy
Squad number54Player nameMontgomery
Squad number4Player nameStarfelt
Squad numbertenPlayer nameAjeti
Squad number12Player nameSoro
Squad number1Player nameSiegrist
Squad number23Player nameHarkes
Squad number66Player nameFuchs
Squad number27Player nameAppeared
Squad number19Player nameLevitt
Squad number12Player nameEdwards
Squad number8Player namePawlett
Squad number28Player nameBlack-smith
Squad number3Player nameSpÃ¶rle
Squad number7Player nameNiskanen
Squad numbertenPlayer nameClark
Squad number33Player nameMcMann
Squad number22Player nameFree man
- 88JuranovicReplaced byMontgomeryTo 26 ‘minutes
- 16MccarthyReplaced bySoroTo 45 ‘minutes
- 17NÃ©ves Philippe
- 22Free manBooked at 90 minutes
- 8PawlettReplaced byAppearedTo 79 ‘minutes
- 66FuchsBooked at 15 minutes
- 7NiskanenReplaced bySpÃ¶rleTo 62 ‘minutes
Match Ends, Celtic 1, Dundee United 1.
Second Half ends, Celtic 1, Dundee United 1.
Attempt saved. Jota (Celtic) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top left corner. Assisted by Adam Montgomery.
Jota (Celtic) hits the bar with his right foot from outside the box.
Free kick won Anthony Ralston (Celtic) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Dylan Levitt (Dundee United).
Attempt saved. Louis AppÃ©rÃ© (Dundee United) right footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the top left corner. Assisted by AdriÃ¡n SpÃ¶rle.
Coin, Celtic. Licensed by Adrian SpÃ¶rle.
Kieran Freeman (Dundee United) is shown a yellow card.
Ismaila Soro (Celtic) foul.
free kick won Louis AppÃ©rÃ© (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Failed attempt. Carl Starfelt (Celtic) header from the center of the box misses to the right. Passed by David Turnbull from a center following a corner.
Coin, Celtic. Licensed by Adrian SpÃ¶rle.
Tomas Rogic (Celtic) hits the bar with a header from the center of the box. Assisted by Jota with a header pass.
free kick won Jota (Celtic) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Kieran Freeman (Dundee United).
Failed attempt. Jota (Celtic) right footed shot from the center of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Tomas Rogic.
Attempt saved. AdriÃ¡n SpÃ¶rle (Dundee United) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top left corner. Assisted by Dylan Levitt.
Substitution, Dundee United. Louis AppÃ©rÃ© replaces Peter Pawlett.
Failed attempt. Albian Ajeti (Celtic) header from the center of the box misses to the right. Passed by Liel Abada from a center.