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  • Sinclair scores a stunner as Celts march on in Scottish Cup

    Sinclair scores a stunner as Celts march on in Scottish Cup

    By: Mark Henderson on 22 Jan, 2017 16:53

  • Scottish Cup fourth round
    Excelsior Stadium, Airdrie
    Sunday, January 22, 2017

    ALBION ROVERS...0

    CELTIC...3
    (Sinclair 30, Dembele 77, Armstrong 90)

    MOUSSA Dembele struck his 20th goal of the season as Celtic cruised past Albion Rovers at the Excelsior Stadium to book their place in the Scottish Cup last 16.

    The prolific striker doubled the Hoops’ advantage with 13 minute left on the clock in Airdrie after Scott Sinclair had put them in charge before the break with wonderful shot into the top corner.

    And there was still time for Stuart Armstrong to seal the victory after some super work by substitute Patrick Roberts as Brendan Rodgers’ side extended their unbeaten domestic record to 25 matches on their resumption of competitive duty following the winter shutdown.

    Kieran Tierney made a welcome return to the side after a three-month absence with an ankle injury as Brendan Rodgers made four changes to the team that earned Glasgow derby success in the final league match of 2016.

    Cristian Gamboa, Dedryck Boyata and Nir Bitton also came into the starting XI, with Jozo Simunovic, the suspended Erik Sviatchenko, Emilio Izaguirre and Callum McGregor dropping out from the team that won at Ibrox.

    Once the frenzy of the opening exchanges had died down, the match soon settled into a predictable pattern, with Celtic dominating possession and probing for openings against a tightly-packed Albion Rovers defence.  

    Bitton registered the Hoops’ first attempt on goal in the 11th minute, the midfielder lashing over from distance before Armstrong tested goalkeeper Ross Stewart with a curling effort from the edge of the box.  

    Moussa Dembele headed narrowly over from Lustig’s ball over the top and James Forrest could only glance wide from Tierney’s pinpoint cross but the Coatbridge side held firm and resolutely remained in their defensive shape.

    Some slick link-up play from Dembele and Scott Sinclair almost prised open the sea of yellow and red but the latter was unable to take the return pass in his stride as the pressure continued.

    The pair combined to good effect again in the 25th minute and this time Stewart had to make a smart save to deny Sinclair from an acute angle.

    The League One side’s brave resistance was eventually broken five minutes later thanks to a moment of magic from Sinclair. Collecting a pass from Tierney on the angle of the box, he took a touch and then curled in an exquisite shot into the top corner beyond the despairing dive of Stewart.

    Brendan Rodgers’ side went in search of further reward before the break and Sinclair had the ball in the net again after Bitton had threaded a pass through the heart of the Albion backline, but the offside flag cut short the celebrations.

    Sinclair was the man doing the damage again early in the second half, driving along the byline and picking out Forrest in the box, whose low shot was well-saved by Stewart.

    Forrest turned provider in the next Hoops raid, teeing up Armstrong, who swept inches over from 18 yards.

    The Cliftonhill club remained camped deep in their own half as the contest developed into an exercise between defence and attack, and Gamboa was next to try his luck after another long spell of possession, the right-back driving wide of the far post.

    As the game entered its closing stages, Celtic started to find more gaps in the tiring home rearguard - Dembele saw a shot beaten away from a tight angle and Boyata was unfortunate to see a header cannon off the underside of the bar from Callum McGregor’s inviting cross.

    Jozo Simunovic, on at the start of the second half for Mikael Lustig, then saw a clever flick cleared off the line – but moments later the champions killed off the contest.

    Patrick Roberts left two opponents for dead with a sublime piece of skill and fed the onrushing Scott Brown and when the captain cut the ball back from the byline, Dembele was on hand to force the ball home.  

    Armstrong had a shot saved by Stewart as the clock ticked down but the midfielder wasn’t to be denied, converting Roberts’ cutback at the death as the Celts marched on in the cup and kept their hopes alive of a domestic clean sweep.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Gamboa, Lustig (Simunovic 46), Boyata, Tierney (McGregor 61); Bitton, Brown; Forrest (Roberts 74), Armstrong, Sinclair; Dembele
    Not Used: De Vries, Izaguirre, Mackay-Steven, Christie

    ALBION ROVERS (4-5-1) R.Stewart; Reid, R. Dunlop, M. Dunlop, Turnbull (McCann 79); R.C. Stewart (Ferguson 65), Fisher, Ferry (Gilmour 74), McBride; Willis
    Not Used: Sheilds, Potts, Archibald, Lightbody

    Website Man of the Match: Scott Sinclair

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