Sunday, August 26, 2018
Celtic Park, Glasgow
DEDRYCK Boyata’s second-half header proved the difference as a dominant Celtic defeated Hamilton 1-0 to return to winning ways in the Scottish Premiership. In his first appearance of the season, the Belgian defender netted from close-range just beyond the hour-mark following Leigh Griffiths’ corner.
That was enough to see the Bhoys bounce back after the 1-0 league loss to Hearts two weeks ago and propel them up to second spot in the table after three games.
It was a richly-deserved reward for champions, who completely dominated a one-sided contest in Paradise, and attention will now turn to securing European football until least Christmas in Thursday night’s UEFA Europa League play-off second-leg with FK Suduva.
Brendan Rodgers had made four changes to the team that drew with the Lithuanian side in midweek – Mikael Lustig, Boyata, Tom Rogic and Leigh Griffiths replacing Cristian Gamboa, Jozo Simunovic, Olivier Ntcham and Mikey Johnston.
With Griffiths and Moussa Dembele both starting, Celtic had signalled their attacking intent but it was the visitors who had the first effort on goal. Almost straight from the kick-off, Mikel Miller drove into box and his rasping, angled drive was pushed round the post by Gordon. It would be the last time the shot-stopper would be called into action
After that, the game settled into a predictable pattern of the Hoops bossing possession and attempting to unlock Martin Canning’s men, who had dropped into a deep defensive shape following their early forward foray.
It took until the 15th minute for the champions to garner a sight of goal as Forrest forced goalkeeper Gary Woods into a fingertip save after Dembele had teed him up in the box. From the resultant corner, Lustig was off target with a near-post flick.
The craft and guile of Rogic almost sliced open the away side, the Australian internationalist picking out Forrest with a precise pass in the box but the winger’s effort was deflected wide. Rogic, who was becoming increasingly prominent, then tried his luck with two attempts from distance, before Griffiths was unable to find Dembele in the box after leaving his marker for dead down the left.
It had been a frustrating first -alf for the hosts, but their perseverance was almost rewarded two minutes before the interval when Dembele rose powerfully at the far post to meet Forrest’s deep cross, but the striker was unable to direct his header on target.
And the striker came even closer with the last kick of the ball of the first half, smacking the top of the bar with a thunderous shot with Woods rooted to the spot.
After the restart, Celtic came flying out the blocks, with Callum McGregor quickly firing over 20 yards. Brendan Rodgers’ side had upped the tempo and McGregor came close to capping off a wonderful, flowing move, involving Forrest, Dembele, Rogic and Tierney, but the midfielder couldn’t keep his shot down.
The one-way traffic continued – Dembele headed narrowly over from Lustig’s cross and then Ziggy Gordon made a last-ditch clearance to prevent Griffiths converting Tierney’s inviting centre.
Finally, just past the hour park, the Lanarkshire side’s resistance was broken. Lustig headed Griffiths’ corner back into the mix and Boyata was on hand to apply the finish. Boyata was almost the unlikely hero again after Dembele’s deflected drive had caused melee in the Hamilton box, but the defender scooped his shot over.
As the clock ticked down, the industrious Dembele continued in search for a goal, coming close on several occasions. Although it wasn’t to be the striker’s day, it had no bearing on the final outcome as the Celts comfortably saw out the closing stages to collect the three points.
CELTIC (3-1-4-2) Gordon; Lustig, Boyata, Ajer; Brown; Forrest (Johnston 68), Rogic (Ntcham 68), McGregor, Tierney; Griffiths (Christie 82), Dembele
Not Used: Bain, Gamboa, Hayes, Sinclair
HAMILTON Woods: McGowan, Want, Tshiembele, Gordon, McMann; Taiwo, MacKinnon, Imrie; Boyd (Cunningham 59); Miller (Kelly 66)
Not Used: Fulton, Hughes, Penny, Smith, Sowah
Celtic v FK Suduva
UEFA Europa League
30th August 2018
Kick Off 20:00
Uefa Champions League: 1st
Europa League: 2nd, 3rd
Play Off: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th