As Tony Ralston crossed for Giorgios Giakoumakis to open the scoring, Celtic’s party was in full swing. Ange Postecoglou’s side, needing just a point to secure the Scottish Premiership title, had Dundee United at arm’s length.
United’s response, via a glorious Dylan Levitt moment, created brief moments of panic in the Celtic ranks. But only that. Postecoglou made great play of the fact there are various ways to cross a finish line. Celtic’s approach was to tiptoe, this draw enough to leave Rangers an insurmountable challenge.
Celtic could have won at Tannadice, they should have won at Tannadice, but none of their followers will care. Postecoglou, quite appropriately last of the Celtic contingent to leave the field, has overturned a 25-point deficit from the end of last season. Those in hoops have a new hero.
“It has been an enormous effort,” said Postecoglou. “No one gave us much of a chance at the start of the season, so to achieve ‘the ultimate’ is an unbelievable effort. I couldn’t be happier but I am really proud of this group of players and staff. They have been unbelievable for me this year. I think our football has been outstanding. ”
The 56-year-old’s exaggeration is wholly forgivable. After all, he is correct to depict the widespread writing off of Celtic’s title hopes.
That Postecoglou’s men did not smash the tape to pieces is understandable. The Australian’s team is a new one, pieced together at a time when the club were in apparent crisis. Many of Celtic’s players had not encountered intensity anywhere near that in Glasgow before this season. Having claimed the main domestic prize, there is cause to think Celtic under Postecoglou will only improve.
The first half at Tannadice involved shadow boxing and little else. Reo Hatate fired well over the bar following Celtic’s finest piece of play, the Japanese midfielder combining for a one-two with Giakoumakis. The latter’s cross, six minutes before the interval, narrowly evaded James Forrest. United, despite having the carrot of European football ahead of them, were passive during those opening 45 minutes.
Rangers were easing to victory against Ross County at Ibrox but there was never any prevailing sense of Celtic being in trouble. Ralston stood up a cross, United’s Liam Smith leapt and missed with his attempt at a clearing header. Giakoumakis nodded through the hands of Benjamin Siegrist. United rallied. Rory MacLeod, a 16-year-old forward, cracked Joe Hart’s left ‑ hand post with a low shot. Tony Watt headed against Celtic’s woodwork.
Soon the tide turned. Siegrist delivered a terrific one-handed save from Jota. Giakoumakis shot inches wide. But just when Celtic looked sure to double their lead, Levitt endorsed his blossoming reputation. The on-loan Manchester United midfielder curled beyond Hart from 25 yards, having collected a Charlie Mulgrew lay-off. Levitt’s graceful touch has been a recurring theme in United’s campaign.
Jota lashed into the side-netting as Celtic chased victory to add gloss to their status as champions. Daizen Maeda lashed into the stand. It didn’t matter. For the 10th time in 11 seasons, green and white ribbons adorn the top-flight trophy.