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Celtic end season on winning note with victory over Dundee Hoops lift trophy

GLASGOW, May 11, (AFP): Celtic ended another successful Scottish Premiership season on a winning note on Sunday with a comfortable 3-1 victory over Dundee United at Parkhead. The Hoops, who were finally presented with the Scottish Premiership trophy at the end of the match, had already had a Leigh Griffiths effort ruled out for offside before Anthony Stokes broke the deadlock in the 64th minute with his side’s 100th goal of the season. Substitute Georgios Samaras then netted on his farewell appearance for the club as he converted a 76th minute penalty that the Greek striker had earned himself after being hauled down by keeper Radoslaw Cierzniak. United pulled one back two minutes later through a Filip Twardzik own goal before Kris Commons made it 3-1 in the 82nd minute.

The Hoops, who celebrate three titles in a row, end the season on 99 points - 29 points clear of Motherwell in second place who dramatically leapfrogged Aberdeen with a last minute Craig Reid strike at Pittodrie to seal a 1-0 win. Neil Lennon, who became only the fourth Celtic manager to win three league titles in a row, spoke of his pride in his players who were only beaten once in 38 league games. “I’m really proud of the team and that they’ve finished off the season with a win and got over 100 goals. It feels better because it’s the third one,” Lennon said. “Certainly in the second half of the season there’s been a real progress and improvement so it gives us a lot of encouragement to build on for next season.”

United manager Jackie McNamara, who rested a host of players ahead of next week’s Scottish Cup final said: “I thought we passed it well and were well organised. I’m not too disappointed because for spells we played well. “The goals were disappointing but you’ve got to take that. The focus is next week but I thought today it was quite a professional performance.” Despite the celebratory atmosphere in the stands there was a subdued start on the pitch with neither side creating any real chances early on. It took until the half hour mark for Celtic to come to life when Twardzik’s ball into the box broke off a United player to Griffiths but the striker’s weak effort was straight to Cierzniak. Cierzniak was then called into action to turn an ambitious Griffiths shot from a tight angle after the Scotland striker raced into the box from the right wing.

United should have found themselves ahead in the 52nd minute when El Alagui knocked an effort over the bar from couple of yards out after former Celtic defender Mark Wilson’s initial shot was blocked by Forster. The Hoops then had the ball in the net a minute later when Griffiths applied a superb finish to Stefan Johansen’s through ball but his effort was ruled out for offside. Commons forced Cierzniak into a save with a fierce strike before he turned provider as Stokes finally got the party started when he broke the deadlock in the 64th minute. Scotland’s player of the year swung a cross over from the right to the back post where Stokes leapt to nod it back across goal and past Cierzniak for Celtic’s 100th goal of the season. Forster then showed the type of form that is likely to lead to a place in the England World Cup squad when he made a superb save to turn a Stuart Armstrong strike round the post.

Celtic then doubled their advantage in the 76th minute when Samaras, on as a second half substitute, marked his final appearance at Celtic Park with a goal from the penalty spot. The Greek striker showed good skill to round Cierzniak but the keeper grabbed at his ankles as he looked to finish his effort. Samaras then buried the resultant penalty to mark an emotional end to his Celtic career. United weren’t out of it and pulled one back two minutes later when sub Gary Mackay-Steven raced into the box and his attempted cutback was diverted into his own net by youngster Twardzik, who was making his first start of the season. However, Commons restored Celtic’s two goal cushion in the 82nd minute when Stokes fed him in the box and he applied a deft finish to round off the scoring.

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