Celtic back on top
© AFP

Celtic returned to the top of the Scottish Premier League after they hung on to defeat Dundee United 2-1 following a second-half onslaught.

Glenn Loovens had headed the Hoops into a first-half lead and they looked to be cruising to victory when Georgios Samaras doubled their lead shortly after the break. But a David Robertson goal set up a frantic finish with the Parkhead side doing just enough to cling on and defeat United for the first time in the league this season. The win sends Celtic one point clear of Rangers, who face Hibernian at Easter Road on Wednesday.

The win sends Celtic one point clear of Rangers, who face Hibernian at Easter Road on Wednesday. "I liked what I saw for the first hour. There was a lot of energy, good football and chances," Celtic manager Gordon Strachan said.  "We had opportunities to kill the game off but fair play to them their chance came along and they took it brilliantly."

I liked what I saw for the first hour. There was a lot of energy, good football and chances.
Celtic coach Gordon Strachan after beating Dundee United

Strachan made several changes to the team that lost Saturday's Old Firm derby, restoring Aiden McGeady with Samaras replacing Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and Scott Brown returning from suspension. United, with an extra man in midfield, looked comfortable in possession and had the best of the opening exchanges.

In the fourth minute a great passing movement involving Paul Dixon and Morgaro Gomis set up Craig Conway on the edge of the box but he sent his low drive just wide of the post. Greek striker Samaras was unlucky not to have opened the scoring in the 14th minute when he sent his bouncing shot from a clever Scott McDonald cutback crashing off the post.

With 20 minutes gone Artur Boruc pulled off a superb fingertip save as Francesco Sandaza leapt highest at the far post to head a Conway cross from the right goalwards.

Despite United's chances it was Celtic who took the lead in the 27th minute through Loovens. The Dutchman got in front of Lee Wilkie at the front post to send a powerful angled header high over Lukasz Zaluska from a Nakamura corner.

McDonald missed a golden chance to double the lead when the Australian curled his shot from just inside the box wide with United captain Wilkie lying injured on the deck. A slack pass from Marc Crosas allowed Gomis to quickly break down the right and his cross had Polish keeper Boruc scrambling on his line to clear on the stroke of half-time.

Celtic pressure
In the 48th minute Gomis sent Sandaza clear in the box but the advancing Boruc saved well with his feet as the Spaniard attempted to send an angled shot past him. Defender Garry Kenneth should have done better when he had a fresh air swipe at the ball after a Conway free-kick from the left landed at his feet six yards from goal.

Celtic then doubled their lead when a Samaras shot took a wicked deflection in the 53rd minute. Brown played a clever pass to the Greek striker whose shot from 20 yards out hit Wilkie, sending Zaluska the wrong way.

Brown then put a diving header straight into the arms of Zaluska before United pulled one back four minutes later through Robertson. The midfielder was unmarked at the back post to send a Dixon cross high past the helpless Boruc.

Robertson then turned provider as his cross to the far post was headed over from a couple of yards out by substitute Andis Shala before Prince Buaben blazed his volley from a fierce cross from the right high and wide. Polish keeper Zaluska did well to race from his goal to save at the feet of Japanese international Nakamura who broke into the box with 66 minutes gone.

United continued to press to the end but Celtic survived a nervy finish to take a crucial three points.