Forrest at double as Celtic restore three-point lead at top


James Forrest’s double restored Celtic’s three-point lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership as the champions beat Dundee 2-1 at Dens Park.

Celtic were tasked with responding to Rangers’ 2-1 victory at St Mirren earlier on Sunday, a result which left them level on points with their Glasgow rivals.

Forrest, on his first start in five months, set the Hoops on their way to avoiding a twist in the title race as his sumptuous volley on the half-hour saw Celtic lead at the break.

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James Forrest puts Celtic in the lead against Dundee with a brilliant volley.

Celtic had to weather a second-half Dundee onslaught before Forrest added his crucial second, starting and finishing a move which ended with him lashing home on 67 minutes.

Antonio Portales pulled one back for Dundee on 74 minutes to set up a tense finale but Celtic held on to move three points clear of Rangers at the Scottish Premiership summit with four games remaining.

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Charlie Mulgrew, James McFadden and Kris Boyd discuss how the title race is looking after wins for Celtic and Rangers.

Celtic maintain pace in title run-in

Forrest was involved from the opening moments, working room to shoot wide from long range, before Nicolas Kuhn forced two saves from Jon McCracken after cutting in off the right flank.

The Dundee goalkeeper pulled a brilliant, clawing save to prevent Greg Taylor’s close-range header creeping in before Reo Hatate stabbed a glorious chance wide after more encouraging play from Forrest in the Dundee area.

James Forrest celebrates after putting Celtic 2-0 up at Dundee
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James Forrest celebrates after putting Celtic 2-0 up at Dundee

Celtic grabbed control of the contest on the half-hour thanks to a moment of magic from Forrest, who showed instinctive brilliance to volley the ball home after the ball had popped up off Kyogo Furuhashi on the edge of the box.

Dundee responded well to falling behind, with Dundee captain Luke McCowan and Bakayoko stinging Joe Hart’s palms with long-range efforts before the break.

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James Forrest claims his and Celtic’s second goal of the game against Dundee.

The hosts ramped up the pressure on the Celtic goal after the restart, with Mo Sylla heading wide from one of many dangerous Owen Dodgson corners before Hart saved Jordan McGhee’s header.

But Celtic wrestled back the initiative when Forrest dispossessed Portales, drove onto Hatate’s through pass to bundle his way through two challenges into the Dundee area where he rifled through the legs of McCracken.

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Antonio Portales deflected goal sees Dundee back in the game against Celtic!

Dundee halved the deficit 16 minutes from time when Portales’ second attempted volley from a corner found a way past Hart with the help of a wicked deflection off substitute Adam Idah, but it failed to inspire a late comeback as Celtic ground out the victory.

Rodgers: An important win

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Brendan Rodgers praised the impact that James Forrest had in Celtic’s win over Dundee.

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers: “A very important win for us. It was always going to be really difficult to have a fast, fluid game. The pitch was bumpy and sticky but the boys got the job done.

“He [James Forrest] is one of the fathers of the great success that this club has had over the last decade or so with the contributions. Today you can see why.

“His ability on the ball, first one was a brilliant finish and the second one he makes it look easier than is was. He was bright and clever around the box so he’s been a brilliant player for this club and really great for him to get the two goals.”

Docherty: So much to be proud of

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Dundee manager Tony Docherty said he was proud of his team’s performance despite losing to Celtic.

Dundee manager Tony Docherty: “Enormously proud in terms of what they served up and the progression we’ve made as a team. That’s the most shots on target Celtic have faced from any team this season.

“On another day if we convert one of two then maybe it’s a different outcome. But I can’t criticise the players, I asked them to be brave.

“Nothing’s changed, we both [St Mirren] lost but what I do think has change is my player’s belief has gone through the roof. There’s so much to be proud of there.”

‘Forrest showed his value’

Former Celtic defender Charlie Mulgrew on Sky Sports:

“He doesn’t like the limelight, he likes to do his job and get on with it. It’s a real credit to him as at the start of the season he wasn’t making squads or getting on the bench.

“To come in on his first start since November is great credit to him and his professionalism. I’m a huge fan of Forrest as a player and a person and he showed today the value he has for Celtic.”

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Charlie Mulgrew, James McFadden and Kris Boyd discuss James Forrest’s performance in Celtic’s win over Dundee.

Sky Sports’ James McFadden:

“For Forrest to barely be involved then come back to put in the performance he’s put in is remarkable. You wouldn’t watch that today and say ‘James Forrest is rusty, you can see why he doesn’t play’.

“The reason he’s in the team is because you know what you’re going to get from him. The other wingers have been unpredictable, James makes good decisions.”

Sky Sports’ Kris Boyd:

I think because Celtic have lost wingers as well and then there’s new ones coming in they’re always going to be the ones to be given a chance because you’ve spent money on them. His training must be at a high level to come in and put in those performances.”

What’s next?

Dundee’s next Scottish Premiership match is at home to St Mirren on May 4, while Celtic host Hearts.

Both games kick-off at 3pm.

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