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Red-hot Griffiths hits big milestone as Celts extend lead at league's summit

Dundee United 1-4 Celtic

By Ronnie Esplin

Published 16/01/2016

Big milestone: Leigh Griffiths was booked after celebrating his 50th goal for Celtic and he soon netted his 51st
Big milestone: Leigh Griffiths was booked after celebrating his 50th goal for Celtic and he soon netted his 51st

Leigh Griffiths broke through the half-century of goals mark for Celtic as the Hoops swept away Ladbrokes Premiership bottom side Dundee United in a convincing 4-1 win Tannadice.

The Parkhead striker took 21 minutes to take his tally to 50 in just 60 starts - the fastest Celt to reach that landmark since Charlie Nicholas in the early 1980s - before defender Jozo Simunovic doubled the visitors' lead.

United forward Simon Murray reduced the deficit just after the half-hour mark but it was to prove only a consolation as free-scoring Scotland international Griffiths grabbed his second three minutes after the restart to make it 51 all-in before midfielder Kris Commons added a fourth.

The comprehensive victory takes Celtic six points clear of Aberdeen at the top of the table and left Mixu Paatelainen's men battered, bruised and still 11 points adrift of second-bottom Kilmarnock.

The Parkhead men started with some purpose with former United midfielder Stuart Armstrong and Commons both having decent drives just missing the target.

There was no surprise that Celtic took the lead nor with the identity of the scorer.

When United defender Gavin Gunning slipped, Griffiths raced through to drill the ball under Japanese keeper Eiji Kawashima for his 23rd goal of the season before taking off his top to reveal a shirt with the number 50 on it for which he was booked by referee Bobby Madden

The second came in the 27th minute when Commons' free-kick from the left was headed in all too easily by Simunovic for his first Celtic goal.

But four minutes later, a good United move ended with John Souttar striding forward to release Murray who poked it past keeper Craig Gordon.

The Bhoys, however, pressed ahead in the second-half when stand-in skipper Mikael Lustig picked out Griffiths with a cross, the Hoops striker burying a shot from the edge of the box.

Griffiths, understandably, went looking for his hat-trick but it was Commons who got the next goal in the 56th minute, spectacularly volleying an Armstrong cross high into the net from six yards.

In the 68th minute Celtic, though, were perhaps lucky to survive a penalty claim when the ball struck substitute James Forrest, on for Tom Rogic, on the arm inside the box.

Deila's men eased off somewhat in the closing stages - Commons did miss the ball completely after running on to a Griffiths pass - as their vociferous support cheered them all the way to the final whistle, happy with what they had witnessed.

Dundee United: Kawashima, McGowan, Dillon, Gunning, Spittal, Souttar (Paton 82), Fraser, Rankin, Dixon, Murray (Erskine 73), Riski (Dow 64)

Subs Not Used: Telfer, Spark, Donaldson, Zwick

Booked: Gunning

Goals: Murray 31

Celtic: Gordon, Lustig, Ambrose, Simunovic, Tierney (Izaguirre 78), McGregor, Johansen, Commons, Rogic (Forrest 60), Armstrong (Allan 69), Griffiths

Subs Not Used: Ciftci, Cole, Bailly, O'Connell

Booked: Griffiths

Goals: Griffiths 21, 48, Simunovic 27, Commons 56

Referee: Bobby Madden

Belfast Telegraph

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