Dundee United’s Scottish Cup dream is over for another season following this comprehensive win for Celtic in the quarter-final replay.
It is 23 long years since the Tangerines last won at Parkhead and in all truth they rarely looked like ending that miserable run this time round as the Hoops eased to victory to keep their hopes of a domestic treble well and truly alive.
This, of course, was the third meeting between the two sides in just 10 days with United still licking their wounds following the bitter disappointment of losing the League Cup Final to the Hoops on Sunday at Hampden.
The Tangerines were without the injured Mario Bilate from the team which started that game as well as Paul Dixon and skipper Sean Dillon who were both suspended.
To replace them, Tangerines boss Jackie McNamara gave the nod to Blair Spittal, Chris Erskine and star striker Nadir Ciftci.
The left-back spot vacated by the suspended duo was filled by midfielder John Rankin who also captained the side.See Thursday’s Courier for full reactionCeltic manager Ronnie Deila made just the one change from Sunday with James Forrest coming in for the suspended Stefan Johansen.
United hearts were in their mouths after just 50 seconds when Kris Commons played in Leigh Griffiths behind the Tangerines defence.
Keeper Rado Cierzniak came racing out of his box but only succeeded in chopping down the Hoops striker and the big Polish goalie must have been a mightily relieved man when referee Calum Murray showed him a yellow and not a red card.
In the 11th minute, United threatened for the first time when Ryan McGowan rode a couple of tackles before sending in a tempting low cross towards Ciftci but Hoops keeper Craig Gordon dived to snuff out the danger.
Shortly after, Griffiths ghosted in at the United back post onto a Anthony Stokes pass but the former Dundee striker could not get enough purchase on his hooked attempt and Cierzniak saved.
However, the keeper was helpless in the 17th minute as Celtic took the lead.
Commons was fouled by Calum Butcher and Stokes flighted the resulting free-kick into the United box with Jason Denayer rising to head high past the despairing grasp of Cierzniak.
Celtic tails were up and Griffiths decided to try his luck with an angled snap shot from 20 yards with Cierzniak relieved to see it flying just over his crossbar.
As the half-hour mark approached, Deila’s side were very much in control of the tie with the Tangerines struggling to create anything of note, being starved of possession.
The home side came close again when Virgil van Dijk rose highest at a Commons corner from the right but his header flew just inches over.
Celtic came agonisingly close to extending their lead in the 37th minute when a sliced cross from Forrest had to be pushed to safety off his own bar by the diving Cierzniak.
It was then United’s turn to curse their luck when McGowan embarked on another powerful run into the Celtic penalty area before cutting the ball back. Gordon looked to have it covered but fumbled with the ball breaking behind the unaware Ciftci with Efe Ambrose mopping up.
Cierzniak then had another moment to forget when he hit a clearance straight to Bitton but the Celtic player could not capitalise on the gift and Callum Morris snuffed out the danger.
Then just before half-time, Commons had a glorious opportunity to make it two for the Hoops but his prodded shot from 16 yards was easily saved by Cierzniak.
As the teams headed down the tunnel at the break there were no prizes for guessing which of the two managers would be happier, with McNamara’s men having it all to do if they hoped to remain in the cup.
There were though promising signs for the travelling support in the early stages of the second half with McGowan whipping in a dangerous ball from the right but there were no takers in front of goal and then Gordon pulled off a superb stop to keep out Ciftci’s cross/shot.
However, United went further behind in the 57th minute.
Scott Brown flighted a long ball in behind the United defence with Griffiths pouncing to volley past the helpless Cierzniak from seven yards.
That was the last action for the goal scorer who was subbed by John Guidetti with Griffiths receiving a standing ovation from the home fans.
The Hoops continued to pile on the pressure and Cierzniak then had to pull off a superb save to keep out a long-range effort from Stokes.
McNamara brought on all three substitutes in a bid to produce a turnaround however it was Celtic who once again extended their lead in the 79th minute.
Commons, who just seconds before had passed up a glorious opportunity with the goal at his mercy, made no mistake this time, collecting a pass from Guidetti to fire the ball high into the roof of Cierzniak’s net.
Then, like his fellow goal scorer Griffiths, Commons was immediately substituted to take a bow before the rapturous Parkhead crowd.
The game looked to be edging to a gentle conclusion but instead it was an explosive finale.
The gloss was taken off the Celtic victory in the 87th minute when Stokes was shown a straight red card for seemingly elbowing Paul Paton.
Just moments later, United’s McGowan was dismissed for a reckless challenge on sub Liam Henderson.
Then in stoppage time, Van Dijk was teed up for a tap-in by Denayer to make it four for Celtic.