Hooper bags brace in Hoops triumph
Two goals from Gary Hooper helped Celtic to a convincing 4-0 home Clydesdale Bank Premier League victory over Dundee United and undoubtedly stiffened manager Neil Lennon's resolve to get the best price possible for the striker if he is to leave Parkhead this month.
Before kick-off Lennon confirmed that his striker had turned down a contract offer while also revealing that the club had turned down another offer from Norwich after rejecting a bid, reported to be about £5million, for the 24-year-old last week.
Hooper, who has 18 months left on his current deal, converted a Georgios Samaras pass in the 19th minute before midfielder Victor Wanyama headed in number two before the break. Hooper struck again 10 minutes from time to take his tally to 22 before he set up substitute Scott Brown for the fourth as United were left thankful that their defeat had not been more demoralising.
Celtic were captained by Samaras and in the third minute he headed a Charlie Mulgrew free-kick past the post from eight yards.
In an unusually open start to the game, Hooper hooked the ball wide of the target before former Celtic midfielder Willo Flood fired off target from the edge of the box. As the home side took another turn to attack, Hooper headed a Samaras cross over the bar from six yards and the match continued to swing from end to end with both defences looking porous.
It was Celtic who were first to benefit when Lassad Nouioui raced away on a counter-attack with the United rearguard chasing, and when he moved the ball wide to Samaras his first-time pass to the unmarked Hooper saw him confidently beating United keeper Radoslaw Cierzniak.
In the 32nd minute Celtic should have doubled their lead when Hooper sent Lassad clear but a great tackle by defender Gavin Gunning thwarted the striker at the expense of a corner. However the loss of the second goal was only delayed.
Mulgrew's corner was cleared out to Mikael Lustig and when he swung a cross to the back post the unmarked Wanyama powered a header back across goal and into the net.
Celtic remained in control and dangerous on the break and 10 minutes from time they broke with pace again and Samaras set up Hooper to score with a neat flick at the near post.
Brown, on for Beram Kayal, who curled in goal number four after taking a Hooper pass, to leave the champions 12 points clear of Inverness at the top of the table.
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