Celtic cruised to a 3-1 win at Dundee United today as the leaders returned to sitting five points clear at the top of the Scottish Premier League. Neil Lennon's side responded to Rangers' 6-0 win over Motherwell yesterday with a less emphatic but just as valuable victory thanks to goals from Anthony Stokes, Mark Wilson and Daniel Majstorovic.
David Goodwillie had given the hosts hope after Celtic took a two-goal lead but the visitors were able to earn their fifth successive league win without much fuss. That was a stark contrast to Celtic's previous trip to Tannadice, which resulted in long-lasting controversy with referee Dougie McDonald eventually quitting amid the fallout over his false explanation of why he had rescinded a penalty award to the Hoops.
The Tannadice pitch passed an early-morning inspection following continuing heavy rain and Celtic were able to take control right from the start. Charlie Mulgrew saw an early free-kick held by Dusan Pernis and Celtic soon took a 16th-minute lead.
Beram Kayal dispossessed Scott Robertson and fed Stokes, who ran into the box before firing a left-footed shot which bounced up off the backtracking Garry Kenneth and into the net. Prince Buaben soon burst through at the other end but Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster came off his line to block the midfielder's effort with his feet.
Celtic went further ahead in the 35th minute. Wilson fed Gary Hooper and continued his run before striking Scott Brown's cutback from 14 yards and seeing it go in off Sean Dillon. Majstorovic headed a Kris Commons corner just wide as Celtic pressed for a killer third goal.
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United got back in the game in the 64th minute. Celtic failed to clear Conway's free-kick and Forster parried the ball out as far as Goodwillie, who stabbed the ball into the corner from eight yards. Goodwillie came close to an equaliser when he turned inside his man after a positive run from substitute Johnny Russell, but Forster got a hand to his powerful low shot from the edge of the area.
United were pinning Celtic back but Hooper almost finished them off when he raced on to Dillon's short headed back pass, sliding the ball past the onrushing Pernis but seeing it come off the far post. Majstorovic did restore the two-goal cushion when he dived on the edge of the six-yard box to head home Mulgrew's inswinging free-kick after Daniel Swanson tripped Georgios Samaras.