Keane off mark to boost Bhoys
The day had its alarms -- this is Tony Mowbray's year of living dangerously, after all -- but in Celtic's victory over spirited opponents in this Scottish Cup fifth-round tie, there were signs at last of the team the manager envisages when he closes his eyes after another day of media harassment and fan scepticism.
Quality counts and Robbie Keane provided it when he came on for the second half to galvanise the Parkhead side and score his first goal for them in a contest which had proved unexpectedly lively throughout the first 45 minutes.
Dunfermline had never beaten Celtic in a cup tie at East End Park, but the possibility drifted over the ground like bonfire smoke when the Fifers absorbed an early shock to rebound into the lead.
Mowbray rang seven changes to the side that lost at Kilmarnock last Tuesday and the decision that prompted most chatter among the visiting support was the one which confined Keane and his fellow Republic of Ireland international Aiden McGeady to the bench.
With the club's highest earner beginning the afternoon as a spectator alongside the most valuable player, there was bound to be an element of added hazard to the opening if the game-plan were to veer off course, as it duly did.
Celtic got the edge they sought after 20 minutes when Dunfermline were unable to clear the rebound from a Georgios Samaras drive against the crossbar and Diomansy Kamara reacted first to slash his drive high past Greg Fleming.
Celtic merited as much for their pressure and diligent forward play, supplemented by useful thrusts from their full backs, Paul Caddis and Edson Braafheid, making his debut on the left to supply a stream of dangerous crosses and deliver corner kicks when required.
Dunfermline, though, were level almost from the restart when Nicky Phinn bolted off on the right to deliver a cutback which allowed David Graham a simple low finish to beat Artur Boruc.
Another acute prompt from Phinn found Steven Bell near the back post, where he was taken down by Caddis for a penalty kick which was exultantly driven home by Andy Kirk. For a spell before and after this turn of events Celtic looked bedraggled and demoralised, surrendering possession culpably and bickering among themselves -- Glenn Loovens and Joshua Thompson in particular.
Dunfermline, however, were amazed by their own audacity and began to sit off the play, an error which allowed Celtic to refuel and regroup and when Braafheid capered along the left three minutes before the break he had a queue of takers for his cross. Scott Brown tried first, shooting against Fleming as did Morten Rasmussen, but the Dane got a second chance off the goalkeeper and stabbed home.
The obvious advantage of having two big hitters on the bench was that they could be sent on as required. Keane appeared for the restart and promptly galvanised his team-mates and their delighted supporters. With characteristic guile he immediately began to make his stop-start runs from deep, unravelling the threads that bound Dunfermline's knotty defence and could have netted three times before Celtic went ahead for the second time.
From one Keane effort Fleming parried out to Kamara, whose cross looked as though it was turned across the line by Callum Woods although Rasmussen claimed credit and stuck to his tale afterwards.
One further ingredient was required to complete the occasion for Celtic and Keane duly supplied it when he was impeded by Austin McCann for a penalty which the Dubliner converted by way of a prelude to a display of cartwheels before the adoring throng behind Fleming's goal.
"I spoke to Robbie during the week. Three 90 minutes in seven days for the boy is probably asking for trouble injury-wise and I think he agreed," said Mowbray of his expensive, but effective, borrowing from Tottenham.
"Robbie is a very humble guy who doesn't carry a superstar ego around with him. He just wants to train and play and pass his advice on. He is a good guy to have around, he loves football. He will have many chances to play at Celtic Park and I hope this will be the first of many successful games for him." (©Daily Telegraph, London)
Dunfermline (4-5-1): Fleming; Woods (Ross 80), McGregor, Dowie, McCann; Gibson, Bell, Burke, Phinn (Cardle 68), Graham; Kirk (Holmes 73). Subs: Paterson (g), Willis. Booked: Graham, Woods.
Celtic (4-1-4-1): Boruc; Caddis (Zhi 78), Loovens, Thompson, Braafheid; Crosas (Keane h-t); Kamara (McGeady 63), Brown, N'Guemo, Samaras; Rasmussen. Subs: Zaluska (g), Rogne. Booked: Caddis.
Ref -- Charlie Richmond.