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Albian Ajeti’s debut goal enough for Celtic to down Dundee United

Albian Ajeti fires past his fellow Swiss, Ben Siegrist to score the only goal of the game
Albian Ajeti fires past his fellow Swiss, Ben Siegrist to score the only goal of the game

Albian Ajeti became an instant hero last night when saving the Hoops from the loss of more points in their bid for Ten in a Row.

The Swiss, bought for £4.5 million from West Ham United earlier in the month, didn’t score at all for the London club last season.

But here on his Premiership debut, he took just nine minutes to hit the back of the net, seizing on a loose ball in the United box to fire home.

That was tough on the Tangerines and in particular on Ajeti’s countryman Ben Siegrist who had been quite superb in goal all night.

He pulled of half a dozen stops from Ryan Christie alone and looked as if he was going to finish the night with the clean sheet his performance deserved.

But for Celtic, who have Ferencvaros to face in a Champions League qualifier in Glasgow on Tuesday night, it was an immense relief.

Micky Mellon has shown his liking for using a back three since moving north to take harge of the Tangerines in the summer.

However here, up against a Celtic side who had scored six against KR Reykjavic in the week, he opted for the more conservative a four.

That meant academy graduate Jamie Robson, back in the squad after injury, slotting in at left back.

He had little time to settle with Jeremie Frimpong, Celtic’s perpetual motion right-back, flying forward from the first whistle in support of his attack.

© SNS Group
Celtic’s Ryan Christie and Dundee United’s Peter Pawlett in action at Tannadice

And with Ryan Christie happy to link up he was clear he was going to be in for a busy afternoon.

When Odsonne Edouard smashing an 18-yard shot on to the outside of the post after United’s centre defence failed to clear one early ball in from Christie, the left flank looked a potential issue for the home side.

Robson, though, showed he was up for the battle with a terrific sliding tackle on Frimpong followed up by a last-gasp block on the Dutchman a couple of minutes later.

Mellon had Callum Butcher deployed in front of the backline as an extra layer of protection.

The Englishman successfully disrupted several of Celtic’s forward moves on the ground and in the air.

He also managed to get involved in his own team’s attacks, linking cleverly with Ian Harkes in a move that sprung Luke Bolton free on the left side of Celtic’s box.

Bolton, blessed with time and space, looked a decent bet to score but got under his shot and the ball flew over the crossbar.

With United keeper Ben Siegrist foiling Christie with a full length diving stop, it was lively stuff.

The Swiss continued in the same vein on his return after the interval with an acrobatic stop to push a wicked Christie effort from distance behind for a corner.

Celtic enjoyed the bulk of the possession and had little difficulty constructing attacks. Time and again, Taylor or Frimpong would push down the flanks.

But while their usual fluency was there, things kept coming unstuck in the final third.

Christie’s evening typified their frustration. It was if the Scotland internationalist was intent on finding ever new ways to go close.

Neil Lennon could not allow the game to just roll on so it was little surprise when he turned to his substitutes bench in search of a breakthrough.

Off went Mohamed Elyounoussi, who hadn’t been at his most menacing, and on, in his place, came James Forrest.

The Scotland winger is quite a substitute to be able to bring on.

The fact he started the night on the bench had everything to do with this game’s proximity to the Hoops’ Champions League qualifier against Ferencvaros coming up at Celtic Park on Tuesday night.

It was not the change that made the difference, though.

That came even later with the introduction of Ajeti sent on to partner Edouard up front.

It delivered the points but if Lennon’s men hope to have success on domestic and European front this season they will need to move up a gear yet.