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  • Sinclair fires Celts to deserved derby victory

    Sinclair fires Celts to deserved derby victory

    By: Mark Henderson on 31 Dec, 2016 14:40

  • Scottish Premiership
    Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow
    Saturday, December 31, 2016

    (Miller 12)

    (Dembele 34, Sinclair 70)

    SCOTT Sinclair’s 11th league goal of the season saw Celtic fight back to seal a deserved Glasgow derby victory over Rangers at Ibrox and maintain their sensational start to the season going into the new year.

    Kenny Miller had fired the hosts into an early lead but the champions restored parity before the break thanks to Moussa Dembele’s thunderous strike.  

    From that moment on, the champions were the dominant side, creating countless chances before they finally found a way through in the 70th minute when the excellent Sinclair converted Stuart Armstrong’s cross at the far post, a goal that proved decisive in a pulsating contest.

    The final whistle was the signal was jubilant celebrations among the players on the pitch and in the away end, with Brendan Rodgers’ side extending their unbeaten domestic run to 24 games and stretching their lead at the top of the table to 19 points, having played a game fewer than their rivals.

    Dembele, who had scored four times against the Ibrox side already this season, including a hat-trick in the last league meeting of the sides, was restored to the starting XI – and he certainly proved his worth.

    His inclusion was one of two changes to the team that beat Ross County 2-0 on Wednesday night, with Callum McGregor returning to the midfield following his suspension.

    Leigh Griffiths and Ryan Christie were the two players to drop out, with the former named among the substitutes.

    Prior to kick-off, a minute’s silence was observed by for the 66 fans that tragically lost their lives in the Ibrox Disaster.

    The match then started at its usual frenetic pace and it was the home side who made the first foray forward almost straight from the kick off. Barrie McKay collected a loose ball on the left, drove forward and picked out Joe Garner in the box but Armstrong was back quickly to make a timely challenge at the expense of a corner.  

    McKay had made a lively start for Rangers and he supplied Jason Holt on the edge of the box in the fourth minute, giving the former but Craig Gordon leapt to his right to make a low save.

    After this initial flurry from the Ibrox side, Celtic started to settle into their stride, enjoying some periods of possession, with Armstrong having a shot deflected wide from distance and Mikael Lustig heading the resultant corner over. Sinclair also shot wide after fastening onto a long ball over the top.

    But in the 12th minute the hosts broke the deadlock. James Tavernier drilled a ball across from the byline and Miller stabbed home from close range.

    Emboldened by their goal, Rangers continued to pour forward and Martyn Waghorn, an early replacement for the injured Garner, had a header saved by Gordon but the offside flag was raised in any event.

    The champions gradually worked their way back into the contest and after Armstrong and McGregor had combined on the edge of the box, the latter worked a sight of goal in the box but he curled well over.

    With space at a premium in midfield and the game being played at a furious pace, it took until the 33rd minute for Celtic to carve out their next opening on the counter-attack. Sinclair’s speed saw him beat the offside trap and, although he was unable to get the original pass under control, he still managed to manoeuvre his way into the box and crack a shot off the inside of the post.

    From the resultant corner, the Hoops levelled the match in stunning style. Sinclair’s lofted delivery was missed by everyone in the middle but dropped for Dembele at the far post and he lashed in a ferocious half-volley that ripped into the top of the net, sending the away support into delirium.  

    The momentum now swung firmly in Celtic’s direction and had James Forrest got a better contact from Emilio Izaguirre’s low delivery then it could have been quick-fire turnaround for Brendan Rodgers’ side.

    Sinclair had been a constant menace down the left with his pace, movement and trickery, and he threatened again as half-time approached, thrusting into the box and bringing out a flying save from Wes Foderingham.

    The visitors continued where they had left off as the second half got underway and Sinclair curled  a free-kick wide after Dembele had been felled by Tavernier on the apex of the box.

    Moments later, Dembele spurned an excellent chance to grab his second of the game after Lustig had cleverly found him in the box in acres of space, the Frenchman failing to make clean contact.

    Foderingham then came to his team’s rescue, blocking Forrest’s shot after Armstrong’s deft pass has put the winger in the clear.

    It was one-way traffic and the woodwork denied Celtic for a second time in the 55th minute. McGregor scampered down the left and his cross was met acrobatically by Dembele on the volley. He did brilliantly to keep the ball down but could only watch in anguish as the ball bounced up and struck the underside of the bar before Sinclair sent the rebound into the side-netting.

    Rangers survived the onslaught, replying with a McKay shot that was straight at Gordon, while Waghorn also failed to capitalise when breaking clear of the Celtic defence, though there did appear to be handball earlier in the move.  

    Around the midway point of the half, Sinclair was thwarted by Foderingham and the offside flag after a one-two with Dembele and then Gordon saved from Danny Wilson at the other end following a Rangers corner – but it was Celtic who deservedly broke through again with 20 minutes remaining on the clock.

    Only minutes after replacing Forrest, Patrick Roberts threaded a pass through for Armstrong and his low cross was swept home at the far post by Sinclair.  

    Armstrong had been growing in prominence and only a superb save from Foderingham denied him making it 3-1 after he had been supplied by Roberts.  

    The Hoops were almost punished for their profligacy on the break when Halliday centred for Miller, whose shot rolled off the far post.

    But Celtic could easily have inflicted further punishment as the clock ticked down, with Armstrong coming close on two occasions before the Hogmanay party got underway in earnest in the Broomloan Stand.

    CELTIC (4-1-2-3) Gordon; Lustig, Simunovic, Sviatchenko, Izaguirre; Brown; McGregor (Bitton 86), Armstrong; Forrest (Roberts 68), Dembele, Sinclair
    Not Used: De Vries, Toure, Griffiths, Gamboa, Mackay-Steven

    RANGERS (3-5-2) Foderingham; Kiernan; Hill, Wilson; Tavernier, Holt (Forrester 82), Halliday, Windass (Dodoo 65) McKay; Garner (Waghorn 16), Miller
    Not Used: Gilks  Hodson, Crooks, O’Halloran

    Website Man of the Match: Scott Sinclair

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