Liam Scales scored his first Celtic goal in an emphatic 3-0 victory over Dundee United.
The former Shamrock Rovers defender showed composure to net late on as Celtic recorded a fifth consecutive away victory in the cinch Premiership to cut the gap on leaders Rangers to four points.
Tom Rogic and David Turnbull scored outstanding goals in an utterly one-sided first half and Ange Postecoglou’s only frustration would be that they did not further boost their goal difference.
Postecoglou was forced into three changes after Jota, Stephen Welsh and Anthony Ralston picked up injuries against Hearts in midweek.
The Portuguese winger is the biggest cause for concern with Postecoglou revealing before the game the loan player would be out for a “few weeks”.
Mikey Johnston came in on the left flank while Greg Taylor returned from shoulder surgery and Cameron Carter-Vickers came back into the team after missing Thursday’s 1-0 win for personal reasons.
The home team had Scott McMann missing through injury but welcomed back Jeando Fuchs and Adrian Sporle.
United were forced to shut the Jerry Kerr Stand after Storm Arwen left several major holes in the roof and Celtic proceeded to blow their hosts away in the first half.
Kyogo Furuhashi headed over from three yards before setting up Rogic to shoot well over under pressure from Fuchs.
The Australia midfielder made amends in some style in the 19th minute. Rogic glided through one challenge after an excellent first touch, dribbled in between two United players on the edge of the box and curled the ball round Charlie Mulgrew and inside Benjamin Siegrist’s far post.
Celtic went looking for a second. Johnston saw a curling effort touched past and both Carl Starfelt and Carter-Vickers were denied following Turnbull corners.
Turnbull then missed two good chances, the second after a brilliant one-touch move, before getting his first goal in 11 Celtic matches in the 40th minute.
Callum McGregor spotted his run, lofted a pass, and the former Motherwell midfielder flicked the ball over Siegrist and knocked it home from close range.
Celtic’s only first-half scares were of their own making. Joe Hart got away with a mis-hit pass along his goalmouth and Mulgrew was too high with a free-kick after Starfelt lost the ball and got himself booked.
Both sides made half-time changes, Liel Abada replacing James Forrest in a straight swap for Celtic and United midfield enforcer Calum Butcher on for forward Louis Appere.
Abada soon set up Furuhashi for a header which Siegrist saved well and Butcher was booked for a foul on Turnbull after referee Don Robertson checked on the severity with his fourth official.
Celtic were not as dominant after the break but Furuhashi was denied several more times and United could not force their way back into the game.
Some poor final balls let the hosts down on promising breaks and Hart pulled off a good stop from Sporle from their one real chance.
Any lingering doubt was removed when Celtic’s substitutes combined in the 81st minute. Abada cushioned Nir Bitton’s diagonal into the path of Scales and the left-back produced a measured first-time finish from 18 yards via a deflection off Ryan Edwards.
Scales almost turned provider with a ball across the goalmouth that was crying out for a touch before Siegrist denied Abada seconds later. Abada missed a sitter in stoppage-time as Celtic finished the game on top.
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe