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4 Dundee United talking points: Liam Fox dubbed Kyogo’s Celtic goal ‘unacceptable’ — so what went wrong?

United fall behind after 90 minutes. Image: SNS
United fall behind after 90 minutes. Image: SNS

Dundee United endured an agonising defeat at Celtic Park.

Tied at 2-2 going into the 90th minute, a woefully sloppy defensive effort allowed Kyogo to restore the Hoops lead.

Liel Abada then struck on the break to make it 4-2.

It was a galling finale, given Dylan Levitt looked to have secured a share of the spoils, finding the net along with Steven Fletcher for the Tangerines, cancelling out Sead Haksabanovic’s brace.

Despite a diligent effort against the champions, United departed pointless and, allied with Ross County’s win over St Mirren, are three points adrift at the foot of the table.

Courier Sport was at Celtic Park to summarise the major talking points.

“Unacceptable” lapse

United head coach Liam Fox tends to be circumspect in his post-match comments.

So, when he describes a goal as “unacceptable”, it is clear something has gone badly wrong.

Kyogo celebrates. Image: SNS

The Tangerines have now conceded at least once courtesy of a header in their last four matches. It is a training ground priority and, given Celtic had 11 corners and 36 crosses on Saturday, United dealt ably with many of those situations in Glasgow.

However, Kyogo’s goal — the decisive moment that made it 3-2 after 90 minutes — was arguably the worst goal United have shipped in their recent four-game losing run.

Picking the bones out of the effort is a three-frame horror-show.

As Matt O’Riley delivers the corner, Glenn Middleton — on as a substitute — is close to Kyogo (both circled). Elsewhere, the marking is decent: Kieran Freeman has Daizen Maida; Liam Smith has Abada; Ryan Edwards on Cameron Carter-Vickers.

Tony Watt, however, is already allowing Anthony Ralston to drift away from him (movement indicated by the arrow).

Middelton is close to Kyogo, circled, while Watt is losing Ralston, as indicated by the arrow. Image: BBC / DCT

By the time Ralston wins his flick-on (below) — given all the space in the world to do so — Kyogo has escaped a pointing Middleton.

Craig Sibbald, covering the near-post area, also fails to engage Kyogo.

Kyogo, circled, has been allowed the freedom of the box to meet Ralston’s flick-on. Image: BBC / DCT

The third frame shows the Japanese international heading home from within the six-yard box, dead between the sticks.

Kyogo nods home with unforgivable ease. Image: BBC / DCT

United did a lot right on Saturday and ran Celtic closer than the vast majority of SPFL clubs will at Parkhead this term — but this was a moment to forget.

While largely inexcusable, the four substitutions made by United may have disrupted their defensive set-up on set-pieces. If that was the case, communication and personal responsibility must come into play.

One thing is for sure: Derek McInnes’ teams are always adept from set-pieces. The need to ensure there is no repeat when Kilmarnock visit on Wednesday is evident.

VAR: A work in progress

After being the victims of a VAR cock-up last week, United were the beneficiaries of the technology in Glasgow.

However, referee David Dickinson’s decision to award a penalty kick for a handball against Alexandro Bernabei only emphasised that — if it were ever in doubt — interpretation will remain key and, often, contentious.

The handball law. Image: IFAB

There can be no doubt that Bernabei did NOT intend to block Steven Fletcher’s header with his arm.

However, following a visit to the VAR monitor, Dickinson decided the Argentine full-back “made his body unnaturally bigger”.

Those who disagree could argue that Bernabei’s body shape was “a consequence of, or justifiable by, the player’s body movement”.

VAR was under the microscope at Parkhead. Image: SNS

One thing both managers did agree upon following the match was that repeated lengthy VAR breaks disrupt the flow of the match, and the need to entertain game-faring customers should be considered within the overall package.

A work in progress, evidently.

Dylan Levitt response

Any concerns regarding how Dylan Levitt would respond to Fox’s balanced assessment of his recent form, and undoubted talent, during the week needn’t have worried.

Climbing from the bench after 63 minutes, the Wales internationalist produced a superb cameo.

Fox and Levitt at full-time. Image: SNS

He made 17 passes (more than any United player, despite only being on the pitch for half-an-hour), with an 100% accuracy rate.

Levitt won possession twice — the same as Freeman, Edwards and Scott McMann — and was one of only three men in Tangerine to regain possession in the final third at any point.

Allied with his second goal of the season, this was a glimpse of the real Levitt. One can safely assume he will be back in the United starting line-up against Killie.

Ian Harkes and Arnaud Djoum step up

While Levitt shone in possession when he entered the fray, Ian Harkes and Arnaud Djoum deserve credit for the hard yards carried out prior to the ex-Manchester United kid’s arrival.

Djoum has endured a sluggish start to his Tannadice career — understandable given he had not played a competitive game since May prior to arriving.

Oft-maligned, Ian Harkes was combative and bright against Celtic. Image: SNS

Harkes, meanwhile, has struggled to recapture the impactful moments of last season and has borne the brunt of criticism.

The duo were excellent at Parkhead.

Djoum and Harkes both won possession six times — only bettered by Celtic’s Matt O’Riley and Moritz Jenz, who both completed the full game, unlike the United pair.

Harkes’ seven duels won was second only to Jamie McGrath (Courier Sport’s United star man).

The American’s four tackles won was more than anyone on the pitch, despite him being substituted after 75 minutes.