Dundee United did the rest of the SPL a favour this afternoon – preventing Celtic from extending their lead at the top over the table even further, but were unlucky not to come away from Parkhead with all 3 points after holding a 2-0 lead over league leaders Celtic with just 12 minutes remaining.
With top goalscorer Noel Hunt out injured until 2007, it was difficult to see where Dundee United’s goals could come from, especially with Collin Samuel playing the loan role upfront.
However, a 17th minute strike from youngster David Robertson gave United a 1-0 lead early in the first half.
Lee Mair’s cross from the right wing was met by the head of Robertson at the back post and from about 6 yards out he headed United into a 1-0 lead against the run of play.
It wasn’t until the 2nd half when Dundee United extended their lead, after Collin Samuel was fouled outside the area by Lee Naylor.
Captain Barry Robson stepped up to fire the freekick into the danger area, and after a knock on by Garry Kenneth – Collin Samuel was in the right place at the right time to blast the visitors into a 2-0 lead from close range.
However, Gordon Stachan’s side were determined to remain unbeaten at home in 2006 and two goals in 2 minutes brought them back on level terms with Craig Levein’s men.
It was once again Shunsuke Nakamura who ruined Dundee United’s afternoon, the same player who scored a hat-trick in Celtic’s 4-1 win at Tannadice earlier in the season.
First of all, the talented Japanese player won a freekick after being brought down by Mark Kerr, he then sent the ball into the United area, where Darren O’Dea headed into the top left-hand corner of Derek Stillie’s goal.
As happens so often in Celtic-United matches, once the Glasgow side score one, they usually follow it up with another couple over the next few minutes and that’s what happened during this match as well.
Shunsuke Nakamura went from goal provider to goal scorer, chipping Derek Stillie from 18-yards, after Derek Riordan pass.
Celtic had been without captain Neil Lennon for the match, after their skipper was sent off in the closing stages of their 1-0 win over Falkirk following an altercation with on-loan Bairn’s striker Anthony Stokes.
Evander Sno replaced Lennon in the Celtic starting line-up, whilst Dundee United made several changes to the side which had been beaten 1-0 by Hearts at Tannadice 3 days earlier.
Defender Steven Robb was out with a hamstring strain and was replaced by David McCracken and David Goodwillie was benched to give midfielder Grant Smith a run out after he played so well against the Tynecastle side after coming on as a sub.
Dundee United could have scored more goals during the match, with a Barry Robson direct freekick flying just over the crossbar in the 26th minute, whilst a 48th minute shot by Grant Smith was saved well by the Celtic keeper.
Celtic also had their chances to get back into the match, with Lee Mair’s perfectly timed tackle on Maciej Zurawski preventing a sure equaliser in the 1st half and Derek Riodan pulled a great save out of Derek Stillie with a 12 yard shot in the 68th minute.
Although, the last 10 minutes of the match were all Celtic after their equaliser and Dundee United might not even have left with a draw, but they survived the severe pressure from the home side and secured a very honourable 2-2 draw against a team which beat them so convincingly only a few months earlier.
Celtic’s unbeaten record over Dundee United at Parkhead will now extend to over 14 years, with the last Tangerine victory a slender 1-0 win thanks to a goal from Duncan Ferguson on Boxing Day 1992.
The league leaders still have a 17 point gap over 2nd placed Rangers, but the Gers have a game inhand and will be hoping to cut that to only 14 points when they play Caley Thistle 24 hours later.
Celtic 2-2 Dundee United