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  • Armstrong at the double as Celtic triumph at Firhill

    Armstrong at the double as Celtic triumph at Firhill

    By: Martin Dalziel on 09 Dec, 2016 21:39

  • SPFL Premiership
    Firhill Stadium
    Friday December 9, 2016

    CELTIC…4
    (Armstrong 39, 48, Griffiths 50, McGregor 81)

    PARTICK THISTLE…1
    (Lindsay 61)

    A TRIO of second-half goals ensured Celtic went into the weekend with an 11-point cushion at the top of the SPFL Premiership after they beat Partick Thistle 4-1 at Firhill.

    The champions held a one goal advantage at the interval thanks to Stuart Armstrong’s tap-in after a largely uneventful first-half but the game burst into life within three minutes of the restart when the midfielder fired in his and Celtic’s second of the game on 48 minutes.

    Hoops striker Leigh Griffiths, making his first start since the win over Ross County, then made it 3-0 with a cultured turn and finish two minutes later but the Jags gave themselves a lifeline when Liam Lindsay headed home from Kris Doolan’s free-kick after the hour.

    Sean Welsh then looked to have dragged his team right back into proceedings when he powered home another set-piece whipped into the Celtic box but the goal was chopped off for offside, giving Celtic a reprieve.

    The three points were finally secured by the champions with less than 10 minutes left on the clock when Callum McGregor powered Emilio Izaguirre’s excellently clipped cross past Tomas Cerny, sending the Bhoys support home happy and the Hoops well clear at the summit of the table.

    Celtic were made to work for their slender advantage in the first-half as they bossed possession but found themselves embroiled in a string of individual battles across the pitch.

    There was little subtlety about Thistle’s approach anytime they found space to attack in the first-half, with repeated highballs into Celtic’s box their most common mode of threatening the Hoops rearguard, leading to their first real chance after the half-hour mark when Erskine latched on to a defensive header from Mikael Lustig, only to fire wide with his left.

    Ziggy Gordon found himself in the referee’s book shortly after when he hauled down Gary Mackay-Steven, making his first start in eight months, from behind with 10 minutes left and things soon went from bad to worse for the Thistle man, when he was beaten on the turn by Griffiths in the build up to the game’s opener, which came moments later.

    The striker picked up a pass from Scott Brown 20 yards out on the left and instantly turned, heading for the byline. The hit-man then cut-back a powerful low cross into the six-yard box which Armstrong beat three Jags defenders to reach with his right, sending the ball into an empty net with a simple finish to give the Bhoys a one-goal lead at the interval.

    It took 40 minutes for Celtic to find the breakthrough in the first-half but only three to double their advantage after the restart, with Armstrong sending his team 2-0 up with an exquisite left-footed shot from distance.

    Cristian Gamboa won a free-kick for the Celts on right and Griffiths took the set-piece short, setting up Armstrong in space 20 yards out. The midfielder composed himself by taking a touch before angling a curling shot into the far corner to send the travelling support into raptures.

    The Bhoys fans had barely finished celebrating the strike when Celtic stormed three goals in front two minutes later after good work again from Gamboa won possession for the Hoops up the pitch as Thistle tried to gain their composure after taking centre.

    The full-back’s tackle fed the ball to Griffiths in the area, who showed strength and composure to roll his marker and open up space to shoot with his left, allowing him to smash a bending shot past Cerny from close range.

    Alan Archibald responded instantly with a double change, as did Celtic by introducing Callum McGregor and Ryan Christie for Rogic and Mackay-Steven, but it was the Jags who benefited after the switches when Lindsay grabbed a goal back for the home side, towering above the Hoops defence to loop a header past Craig Gordon after Kris Doolan’s free-kick.

    The Firhill side then thought they were right back into the game when Welsh headed in another free-kick moments later but the former Hibs ace was flagged offside.

    An action-packed spell of play continued when Roberts curled a shot over on 65 minutes before Griffiths was denied a second goal a minute later when the striker showed wonderful skill to beat a succession of Thistle players, only to see Cerny palm his effort wide.

    Moussa Dembele’s introduction for Roberts indicated the Celtic manager’s desire to properly secure the victory but there was a brief moment of concern when Thistle substitute Ade Azeez went down under a challenge from Craig Gordon on the edge of the box but the striker was booked for simulation.

    The game was finally put to bed in the final 10 minutes, however, when Izaguirre bore a hole into the Jags defence on the left flank and picked out McGregor with expert precision, allowing the midfielder to fire Celtic’s fourth goal into an empty net with his right.

    The goal gave the Hoops clear breathing space again and helped them leave Firhill with their 12th domestic win in a row, despite a late flurry of free-kicks and long balls into the box from the home side.

    CELTIC (4-1-2-3) Gordon; Gamboa, Lustig, Sviatchenko, Izaguirre; Brown; Rogic (McGregor 58), Armstrong; Roberts (Dembele 75), Griffiths, Mackay-Steven (Christie 58)

    Not used: De Vries, Toure, Bitton, Boyata,

    PARTICK THISTLE: (4-5-1) Cerny; Booth, Lindsay, Gordon, Barton; Elliot, Amoo (Edwards 57), Osman, Erskine (Lawless 57), Welsh; Doolan (Azeez 75)

    Not used: Stuckmann, Devine, Wilson, McDaid

    Website man of the match: Stuart Armstrong

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