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  • Dream debut for Sinclair as Celts break Hearts

    Dream debut for Sinclair as Celts break Hearts

    By: Mark Henderson on 07 Aug, 2016 16:09

  • Scottish Premiership
    Tynecastle, Edinburgh
    Sunday, August 7, 2016

    (Walker pen.36)

    (Forrest 8, Sinclair 81)

    SCOTT Sinclair came off the bench to score a dramatic debut winner for Celtic against Hearts as the champions made a perfect start to their title defence in a pulsating tussle at Tynecastle.

    James Forrest had handed the Hoops an early lead with a precise finish from 18 yards but a contentious Jamie Walker penalty saw the home side level the match before the break.

    But then the new Bhoy, who only completed his move from Aston Villa hours earlier, sent the travelling support into raptures after he converted Leigh Griffiths’ low cross with nine minutes left on the clock.

    The 27-year-old was named among the substitutes, while fellow new recruit Kolo Toure made his first start for the Bhoys in the capital after making his bow as a second-half substitute in Wednesday’s dramatic 2-1 victory over FC Astana in the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round.

    The inclusion of the former Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal defender was one of two changes to the team that prevailed against the Kazakh side in the crucial European clash.

    Celtic’s last-action hero, Moussa Dembele, who won and then converted from the penalty spot in the dying seconds of the match in midweek also came into the team. Saidy Janko and the injured Patrick Roberts were the two players to drop out.

    Amid the traditional raucous atmosphere at Tynecastle, it was the home side who made the initial attacking forays, with Conor Sammon a lively presence up front, forcing a corner inside the opening minute and then shooting wide from distance.

    But Celtic weathered that early storm and clinically broke the deadlock with their first effort on goal. Callum McGregor was the instigator, cutting in from the right and drawing a foul on the edge of the area. With referee John Beaton playing on, Forrest collected the loose ball and curled a shot beyond Jack Hamilton into the far corner, much to the delight of wide-man and the Hoops faithful.

    Another burst from Sammon almost gave Walker a sight of goal as Hearts rallied quickly but Kieran Tierney was across quickly to make a timely tackle.

    Both teams were pressing all the pitch all over the pitch as the match continued to be played at a furious pace, and Sammon and Arnaud Djoum saw yellow for the hosts for late tackles on Toure and Scott Brown respectively.

    Former Celt Tony Watt spurned an opportunity to level the match midway through the half when heading wide from Callum Paterson’s pinpoint cross.

    Moments later, Griffiths could have doubled Celtic’s advantage after he fastened onto Craig Gordon’s long clearance but the hit-man’s first-time lob crept over.

    Boosted by his goal, Forrest was playing with drive and purpose and a neat piece of skill from the winger saw him beat his man and try his luck from the angle of the box. His shot took a deflection and Hamilton had to make an impressive reflex save to tip the ball wide. From the resultant corner, Toure was close to making contact.

    But in keeping with the end-to-end nature of the game, Hearts then equalised. Walker went down in the box under Tierney’s challenge and referee Beaton pointed the spot. Walker picked himself up and dispatched the penalty into the corner.

    Brendan Rodgers’ side came close have restoring their lead in quick-fire fashion as Dembele was denied by Hamilton from an acute angle, with Griffiths’ rebound hacked off the line by Souttar.

    Mikael Lustig looked to be denied a good penalty shout when he was hauled down in the box from a corner, before Souttar then came to his side’s rescue again as he blocked a fizzing cross from Forrest that was heading into the danger area.

    At the other end, Gordon was forced into action twice by Watt as both teams went in all-square at the interval.
    The Hoops burst from the blocks at the start of the second half and some strong play from Brown saw him muscle Djoum off the ball and play in Griffiths, whose right-footed effort was saved by Hamilton.

    The striker also saw a curling free-kick saved by Hamilton after Dembele had been pulled back by Igor Rossi, a foul which earned the defender a booking.

    Griffiths shot wide from distance, before Dembele’s strength and pace saw a fifth Hearts player enter the book in the form of Paterson. The resultant free-kick was taken from Griffiths but the Hearts wall did its job.

    Aside from Sammon shooting straight at Gordon, it had been all Celtic at this stage in the contest but with a second goal elusive, Brendan Rodgers introduced Sinclair for his Hoops bow just beyond the hour mark.

    In the 68th minute, a swift Celtic counter-attack saw Lustig cut the ball back for Dembele but the striker was thwarted by another last-ditch block by Souttar.

    But Brendan Rodgers’ men were not to be denied as Sinclair ensured a dream debut by beating Hamilton with a deft finish from Griffiths’ low delivery, sealing a well-deserved three points for the champions.

    CELTIC (4-4-2) Gordon; Lustig, Toure, O’Connell (Rogic 73) Tierney; Forrest, McGregor, Brown, Armstrong (Sinclair 61); Griffiths (Janko 83), Dembele
    Not Used: Fasan, Izaguirre, Ciftci, Johansen

    HEARTS (4-4-2) Hamilton; Paterson, Souttar,  Rossi, Rherras; Walker, Djoum, Cowie, Nicholson; Watt (Muirhead 61), Sammon (Buaben 78)
    Not Used: Noring, Oshaniwa, Smith, Zanatta, Paton

    Website Man of the Match: Scott Brown

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