Scottish League Cup
Saturday, August 18, 2018
(Griffiths 18, Dembele 77, Rogic 79)
CELTIC kicked off the defence of the League Cup with a thrilling 3-1 win in a Glasgow derby against Partick Thistle at Firhill.
Leigh Griffiths scored his 99th goal for Celtic in the first half. The hosts levelled the scoring through Andrea Mbuyi-Mutombo in the second period but Brendan Rodgers’ side responded quickly and scored two further goals through Moussa Dembele and Tom Rogic.
Brendan Rodgers made a total of six changes to the side that played AEK Athens in midweek as the Scottish champions returned to domestic competition at Firhill to start the defence of the League Cup.
Emilio Izaguirre marked his Celtic return and was joined in the starting XI by Scott Bain, Kristoffer Ajer, Cristian Gamboa, Scott Sinclair and Mikey Johnston. Kieran Tierney, Mikael Lustig, Jozo Simunovic, James Forrest and Callum McGregor all started from the bench while Leigh Griffiths retained his position up front.
Celtic were in control of the game from the off and forced the home side to sit deep inside their own half and soak up the pressure for long periods. There was an urgency to Celtic’s play and the Scottish champions soon started opening up the Thistle defence with some neat passing in the final third.
Tom Rogic almost scored twice inside the opening 10 minutes. He initiated the first opportunity when he lofted a long pass up to Griffiths who did well to hold it up inside the area. Griffiths then rolled the ball into the path of the Australian whose shot was saved by an excellent save from Cameron Bell.
Celtic continued to pile the pressure on their opponents and an early goal looked inevitable. Izzaguirre slotted seamlessly into the Hoops defence and helped play a part in Celtic’s attack with some accurate passing down the left and good link-play with Sinclair who was providing some good crosses into the box.
Sinclair caused problems for Thistle right-back Christie Elliott down the left wing and the captain’s inability to contain the Hoops winger ultimately led to the opening goal. From a short corner Sinclair rolled away from Elliott, ran along the byline with the ball and picked out Griffiths on the penalty spot who comfortably slotted home.
Celtic maintained the pressure on their opponents following the goal and looked like they would score a second before half-time.
Rogic remained a real thorn in the side of Thistle throughout the half with his attacking intent and good link-up play in the final third.
He helped instigate a great chance for Johnston when the pair played a neat one-two on the edge of the area before Rogic flicked the ball over the defence and into the path of the young winger. Bell was off his line in a flash and managed to smoother the shot to keep the score at 1-0.
Johnston came close again before the break but, after twisting and turning inside the box, his shot from a tight angle was pushed clear by the keeper. The half ended with a wonderful effort from Ntcham. He curled a fantastic shot form 25-yards which shaved the top of the crossbar.
Celtic’s continued to control possession following the restart but the home side were more organised in defensively following the break and enjoyed their best spell of play in the game.
The Hoops still managed to threaten though and came close with some moments of great individual play. Johnston went on a driving run from the half-way line, skipped past Sean McGinty on the edge of the box and tried to dink the ball over the keeper but it ended up landing on the roof of the net. Sinclair was inches wide with his attempt which he tried to curl into the far corner from 18 yards.
Dembele replace Griffiths in attack and made an immediate impact when he came on. Tam O’Ware and Elliott struggled to deal with a long ball over the top and paid the price when Dembele used his speed and strength to muscle them off the ball. He forced a fine save from Bell with a half volley from a tight angle.
Thistle substitute Aidan Fitzpatrick also made an immediate impact when he came on. He weaved create space inside the Hoops box and set up Andrea Mbuyi-Mutombo who drew the home side level with a low drive across Bain which went in off the far post.
Celtic responded as cup holders should and re-established their lead within five minutes. Gamboa showed great pace to burst into the penalty box and cross the ball into the path of Dembele who directed the ball beyond Bell with his thigh.
Gamboa’s contribution to the game was not finished at that point and just two minutes later he was again the creator. James Forrest threaded a wonderful ball through the Jags defence for Gamboa to run on to and Rogic side-footed his cross past the keeper to extend the lead.
CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Bain; Gamboa, Hendry, Ajer, Izaguirre; Brown, Ntcham (McGregor 78); Rogic, Johnston (Forrest 69), Sinclair; Griffiths (Dembele 64)
Subs: Gordon, Simunovic, Lustig, Hayes
PARTICK THISTLE (4-5-1) Bell; Elliot, Penrice, O’Ware, McGinty; Storer, Gordon (Slater 37), Melbourne, Doolan (Erskine 58); Spittal
Subs: Sneddon, Keown, Wilson, Fitzpatrick