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Dundee United verdict: Player ratings, key moments and star man as Celtic’s injury time double sends Tangerines bottom

Abada makes it four. Image: SNS
Abada makes it four. Image: SNS

Dundee United endured Parkhead heartbreak as the concession of two injury-time goals saw them defeated 4-2 in a breathless showdown against Celtic.

A Sead Haksabanovic brace either side of Steven Fletcher’s VAR-led penalty kick sent the Hoops in at the break with a 2-1 advantage.

However, a gutsy finale saw Ryan Edwards hit the post for United, before the Terrors ultimately restored parity through Dylan Levitt with 87 minutes on the clock.

That joy would be agonisingly short-lived.

United level after 87 minutes. Image: SNS

Celtic piled forward from kick-off and Kyogo restored their advantage from a woefully simple corner.

With nothing to lose and bodies streaming forward, Abada made it four on the break. Salt in the wounds.

Allied with Ross County’s 3-2 win over St Mirren, United are now three points adrift at the foot of the Premiership.

Key moments

Celtic took just six minutes to break the deadlock and, given the imperative Liam Fox would have placed upon not giving away any daft opportunities in the opening stages, it was maddeningly avoidable.

Fletcher dallied on the ball inside the United half, allowing Reo Hatate to pinch possession. He swept the ball to Jota, who teed up Haksabanovic for a tap-in.

However, the former Scotland striker would soon make amends.

Fletcher celebrates United’s equaliser. Image: SNS

Fletcher slammed home a penalty after referee David Dickinson adjudged Alexandro Bernabei to have handled his header — via a trip to the sideline VAR monitor.

Celtic restored their one goal lead prior to the interval when Mark Birighitti failed to get a strong hand on Haksabanovic’s low shot, allowing the ball to squirm over the line after kissing the inside of the post.

Seeking to make their lead unassailable after the break, David Turnbull saw a glancing header hit the post following a fine Jota delivery.

United came close when Glenn Middleton, excellent off the bench, saw a goal-bound shot brilliantly cleared on the line by the retreating Greg Taylor. From the resulting corner, Edwards headed against the post.

The Hoops endured their own woodwork woe when James Forrest saw his own diving header rattle the post.

Ryan Edwards struck the post for the Tangerines. Image SNS

Levitt appeared to have salvaged a share of the spoils when his sumptuous delivery evaded everyone and nestled in the net.

But there would be double late agony for the visitors when Kyogo headed home a simple corner from point-blank range on the 90-minute mark. So much good work undone.

Abada added gloss to the scoreline, haring through and dinking a delightful finish past Birighitti.

United star man: Jamie McGrath

Charged with getting close to Fletcher, while also dropping back to beef up the midfield out of possession, the Ireland international’s work ethic and combative drive were outstanding.

McGrath, N0.18, was excellent

And when afforded the chance to make a pass or a surge forward, he was brave with the ball.

Just beats out Arnaud Djoum and Ian Harkes, both of whom were good in the engine room, to the recognition. Edwards was also much improved.

Player ratings

Dundee United (5-3-1-1): Birighitti 5; Freeman 6, Smith 6, Edwards 7, McMann 6, Behich 6; Sibbald 6, Djoum 7 (Levitt 60, 5), Harkes 7 (Watt 75); McGrath 7 (Meekison 75); Fletcher 6 (Middleton 70, 5). Subs not used: Eriksson, Graham, Niskanen, Pawlett, Anaku.

Manager under the microscope

After Fox’s motivational shot across the bows to Levitt this week, the Welsh wizard was among the substitutes at Celtic Park. Ian Harkes came into the side in his place.

Levitt would later enter the fray and showcase his ability.

Harkes was back in the starting 11. Image: SNS

Djoum replaced Tony Watt as the Tangerines deployed a 5-3-1-1, with Fletcher leading the line.

Fox’s introduction of Middleton and Archie Meekison in the closing stages made a real difference.

Man in the middle: David Dickinson (VAR: Nick Walsh)

Dickinson’s decision to award a penalty for handball by Bernabei will come under the microscope, with the Argentine full-back’s block of Fletcher’s header seemingly accidental.

David Dickinson made a big call. Image: SNS

IFAB laws of the game, the call would appear to be justifiable — but always open to interpretation.

Law 12.1 relating to handball states that an offence takes place when a player “has made their body unnaturally bigger”, albeit those railing against the decision may point to the defence when it is “a consequence of, or justifiable by, the player’s body movement”.

VAR Nick Walsh also checked a high challenge on Giakoumakis by Sibbald for possible serious foul play but did not deem it worthy of calling Dickinson to the monitor.