New Douglas Park, Hamilton
Sunday, April 8, 2018
(McGregor 4, Griffiths 46)
LEIGH Griffiths’ second-half header sealed a dominant 2-1 victory for Celtic away to Hamilton Accies, putting them within one win of a seventh successive title.
The champions burst from the blocks and Callum McGregor handed them an early breakthrough with an accurate finish after combining well with Patrick Roberts.
Rakish Bingham restored parity for the home side, who then had Darren Lyon dismissed four minutes before the interval after the defender was booked twice in quick succession.
And Brendan Rodgers’ capitalised on their man advantage moments after the restart as Griffiths, introduced at the start of the second half, applied the finish to Scott Sinclair’s inviting centre.
The Bhoys comfortably saw out the rest of the contest to stretch their lead at the top of the table to 13 points with five games remaining, with attention now turning to next weekend’s Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden.
Roberts made his first Celtic start since the end of November as the manager made five changes to the side that faced Dundee on Wednesday night.
Ineligible to face his parent club earlier in the week, Scott Bain also returned between the sticks. Kristoffer Ajer, Olivier Ntcham and Kieran Tierney were the other players restored to the team.
Straight from the kick-off, Celtic should have opened the scoring. Shaun Want’s short back-pass allowed Moussa Dembele to bear down on goal but the striker was denied by Ryan Fulton.
However, it only took until the fourth minute for the champions to break the deadlock. McGregor collected a return from Patrick Roberts in the box and drilled home a low shot at the near post.
Bossing possession, the Celts were in complete control as they probed patiently for number two, with Ntcham testing Fulton with a swerving shot from the edge of the area.
From their first effort on goal, however, the hosts levelled the contest. In the 18th minute, Bingham fastened onto a ball over the top and slotted a shot beyond Bain.
Brendan Rodgers’ side were soon back on the front foot as they attempted to restore their advantage. After good work from Tierney down the left, Sinclair was given a sight of goal in the box but he was denied by a last-ditch block. Dembele also curled a free-kick narrowly over after a foul on Roberts.
McGregor was next to threaten, driving through the middle on a purposeful run and forcing Fulton into a smart save with a powerful shot.
As half-time approached, the home side were reduced to ten men. Just moments after getting booked for a late tackle on Tierney, Lyon was given a second yellow for pushing Tierney to the ground after a tussle between the pair.
The Hoops almost capitalised on their man advantage before the break but Dembele was unable to steer a loose ball from a corner on target at the far post.
At the start of the second half, Griffiths was introduced in place of Jack Hendry and it only took the hit-man seconds to make his mark. Sinclair skipped past his man on the left and Griffiths was on hand to head home his pinpoint cross in the middle – his 98th goal for the club.
Tierney was next to try his luck for the Celts but he couldn’t keep his shot down after thrusting into space, before Ntcham saw his attempt deflected narrowly wide. Roberts wasn’t far away either with a 20-yard effort.
Celtic were utterly dominant in possession but they were given a scare at the other end when Georgios Sarris glanced a corner wide.
That stung the Bhoys back into action – Sinclair headed inches wide, with aid of a deflection, and McGregor fired straight at Fulton.
Some lovely link-up play between Roberts and McGregor presented Ntcham with an opening but he blasted wide.
And substitute Charly Musonda spurned a late chance to finish the match with a flourish for the visitors, who cruised through the closing stages to move within touching distance of the championship.
CELTIC (3-4-2-1) Bain; Hendry (Griffiths 46), Ajer, Boyata; Roberts (Musonda 86), Brown, Ntcham, Tierney; McGregor, Dembele (Edouard 68), Sinclair
Not Used: De Vries, Armstrong, Lustig, Forrest
HAMILTON ACCIES Fulton; Lyon, Want, Tomas, Van Der Weg, McMann; MacKinnon (Ferguson 63), Jenkins, Redmond (Rojano 84); Crawford (Sarris 46); Bingham
Not Used: Marshall, Miller, Hughes, Ogkmpoe
Celtic v Rangers
William Hill Scottish Cup
15th April 2018
Kick Off 14:30