Paulo Bernardo and Mikey Johnston were the unlikely goal heroes for Celtic at Dundee but Cameron Carter-Vickers was at the centre of an injury concern ahead of Saturday’s visit of Rangers to Parkhead.
Bernardo poked home the 52nd-minute opener at Dens Park to net his first goal for Celtic and substitute Johnston struck his first two goals for the Hoops since December 2019 to earn a comfortable 3-0 win at Dens Park.
But the sight of influential centre-back Carter-Vickers going off shortly after the opening goal dampened the Celtic fans’ Boxing Day celebrations.
Carter-Vickers immediately had words with manager Brendan Rodgers after the goal and the visiting supporters’ celebrations were almost silenced moments later when they saw the United States international walking off along with the physio.
Carter-Vickers missed two-and-a-half games with a hamstring issue earlier this month and Celtic fans will hope the move was purely precautionary.
It was Celtic’s seventh consecutive away game in the fixture immediately after Christmas Day and it produced a seventh win to ensure Celtic will go into the derby top of the cinch Premiership.
The champions lead by five points but Rangers have two games in hand including Wednesday’s Ibrox clash with Ross County.
Rodgers named the same team that started in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Livingston, while Dundee had Cammy Kerr in for the absent Ricki Lamie and Zak Rudden returned as one of two strikers.
Celtic quickly took control without carving Dundee open. Kyogo Furuhashi headed safely into Trevor Carson’s hands and Luis Palma fired over from a decent chance but Dundee also had their moments going forward.
Lyall Cameron fired a ball across the face of goal after great footwork and Rudden’s looping header was saved by Joe Hart.
Celtic began to create better chances after the first quarter. Liam Scales headed just wide from Palma’s corner and Matt O’Riley created a chance for himself but shot straight at Carson.
For all Celtic’s possession, it was a loose ball from a Dundee throw-in that led to the visitors’ best chance of the half. O’Riley played the ball forward and Furuhashi was clean through. The Japan striker dinked the ball over Carson with his right foot but the ball drifted just wide.
O’Riley and Bernardo were then off target from half-chances and Callum McGregor saw a shot blocked before setting up Palma for a free header that the Honduran sent wide.
The domination continued after the break as Furuhashi sent a weak shot wide and Bernardo headed over before making the breakthrough.
Dundee were on the back foot after Rudden was flagged offside and Palma threaded the ball through for Bernardo’s run. The on-loan Benfica midfielder stretched to get a toe on the ball and it bobbled through Carson’s legs.
Stephen Welsh replaced Carter-Vickers but it was Johnston who grabbed the headlines.
The winger cut in from the left in the 83rd minute and fired a 22-yard strike which Carson could only help into the net.
Carson saved from Oh and Benardo before Johnston played a one-two with O’Riley and drilled into the bottom corner from 16 yards in stoppage-time.
The Republic of Ireland international was not far away from his hat-trick when he curled wide in the closing seconds.