Dundee maintained their undefeated start to the season with a well deserved 1-1 draw against Celtic at Dens Park this afternoon. James McPake gave the Dee a first minute lead, and Leigh Griffiths equalised for the champions early in the second half.
The Dark Blues matched Celtic throughout the game and either side might have grabbed a winner in the thrilling closing stages. Dundee had the better chances while an outstanding defensive performance by the Dee gave Celtic few opportunities.
Paul Hartley opted for a novel line-up that surprised the home fans. Greg Stewart moved back to left midfield and Gary Harkins sat just behind lone striker Peter MacDonald. Philip Roberts moved across to the right where he posed a constant threat to Celtic in his 65 minutes on the pitch.
Dundee stunned the champions with a goal inside the first minute. The Dark Blues attacked from the kick off and Roberts won a corner on the right. He took the kick himself and James MCPAKE was unmarked to head home from 10 yards with only 50 seconds on the clock.
Celtic responded predictably by putting the Dee under sustained pressure, but the Hoops couldn't turn midfield possession into penalty box menace. Stokes had an early half chance, but his weak shot from 18 yards gave Letheren no trouble.
The Dark Blues were defending coolly and looked more threatening than Celtic with less of the ball. They always had a dangerous option in the pace of Roberts, who was always keen to take on Izaguirre. The flying winger came with inches of a second goal when he cut inside Izaguirre and flashed a shot against the far post.
The Celtic defence looked fragile and disorganised in the first half. Dreadful defending allowed MacDonald to run unchallenged onto a long ball from Roberts, but his lob over Gordon drifted wide.
Late in the first half Celtic replaced the anonymous and ineffective Berget with the very familiar and very dangerous Leigh Griffiths, a move that proved crucial.
The final action of the first half saw Letheren pull off an outstanding save to tip an Ambrose header over the bar.
Ronny Deila reorganised the Celtic defence at half time, withdrawing right back Matthews and sending on young Eoghan O'Connell to play at centre back. Efi Ambrose moved to right back. The Celtic defence now looked more composed and organised, but they were always vulnerable to balls played in behind the adventurous full backs.
Celtic's close passing in the final third wasn't coming off against a Dark Blues' defence in commanding form. The Hoops looked most dangerous with some accurate long range shooting, and nine minutes into the second half this route brought them an equaliser. Former Dens favourite GRIFFITHS picked up the ball just outside the penalty area, and his quick shot took a deflection to send the ball just beyond Letheren's dive.
Celtic now had the momentum and pushed the Dark Blues back. Paul Hartley responded with substitutions that brought the Dee right back into the game and set up an exciting final half hour that had both sets of fans roaring their favourites on.
Celtic were having great difficulty opening up Dundee's defence, and their best chance inside the penalty area came from a corner that O'Connell headed wide.
Roberts had taken some heavy treatment from Izaguirre, who must have been relieved when Roberts was taken off midway through the half. The substitute, Martin Boyle, merely cranked up the pressure on the left side of the Celtic defence which disintegrated at times faced with Boyle's pace and clever passing from the Dee midfield, where McGowan was outstanding.
Frustratingly Dundee couldn't turn some marvellous raiding down the right into a winning goal. Boyle's 18 yard shot was deflected narrowly past the post with keeper Craig Gordon going the wrong way. Remarkably Mr Thomson awarded a goal kick to the annoyance of the home support.
Twice McGowan's incisive passing sent Boyle clear to run in from the right behind Izaguirre. First, Gordon saved well at the near post from Boyle's fierce shot. The second time Boyle's effort screamed across goal and just past the far post when he should perhaps have cut the ball back for Tankulic.
Tankulic was next to have a go, with a 25 yard shot that whizzed past the post. Celtic then had a couple of dangerous long range shots. Stokes hit the outside of Letheren's post from 20 yards and Griffiths forced a good save from the Welsh keeper with a 35 yard rocket that was heading under the bar.
In the final minutes the Dark Blues looked the more dangerous side as Celtic lost their composure in attack. They repeatedly lost the ball and looked vulnerable to fast breaks. Tankulic shot across goal when he should have found McGowan in space. McGowan then won the ball superbly just inside the Celtic half, but dallied and was caught before he could play in Boyle or Stewart.
Yet again Dundee's fitness shone through as they finished the match strongly and confidently. This was an excellent team performance from the Dark Blues. Dundee were organised and hard working. The Dark Blues again showed what a tough side they are to beat, and that they are capable of playing football that can worry the best in the Premiership.
Dundee now have the strength of pool to bring on players from the bench who can make an instant and effective contribution. There were many promising signs today, but the ability of the Dark Blues coaching team to react to problems and use their squad to turn the game in Dundee's favour is hugely encouraging.
The sponsors' man of the match was James McPake. He certainly deserved it, but the award could have gone to any of his defensive colleagues, or indeed the excellent Paul McGowan in midfield. It's hard to recall a game against either of the Old Firm in which Dundee's defence have looked so solid. That confident defence was the platform for a convincing performance right through the side that fully deserved the standing ovation from the supporters at full time.
Dundee FC 4-4-1-1
McGinn, McPake, Konrad, Irvine
Roberts (Boyle 65), McAlister, McGowan, Stewart
Harkins (Ferry 57)
MacDonald (Tankulic 57)
Unused subs: Bain (gk), Davidson, McBride, Wighton
Goal: McPake (1)
Booked: Irvine (foul on Griffiths)
Matthews (O'Connell, half time), Ambrose, Denayer, Izaguirre
McGregor, Kayal (Bitton 70), Johansen, Berget (Griffiths 41)
Unused subs: Lukasz (gk), Wakiaso, Henderson, Pukki
Goal: Griffiths (54)
Booked: Kayal (foul on McGowan), Izaguirre (foul on Roberts)
Referee: Craig Thomson
Report: James Christie