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  • Sinclair at the double as Celtic make history

    Sinclair at the double as Celtic make history

    By: Mark Henderson on 29 Jan, 2017 15:03

  • Scottish Premiership
    Celtic Park, Glasgow
    Sunday, January 29, 2016

    CELTIC...4
    (McGregor 30, Sinclair 77, pen. 90+1, Roberts 80)

    HEARTS...0

    SCOTT Sinclair bagged a late brace as Celtic cruised past Hearts in Paradise to eclipse the Lisbon Lions’ 26-game domestic unbeaten run which they set in the club’s historic 1966/67 season.

    The Hoops led at the break through Callum McGregor and controlled proceedings throughout, but it took them until the closing stages to seal the spoils when Sinclair and Patrick Roberts struck in quick succession.

    And there was still time for Sinclair to convert from the penalty spot after 16-year-old Jack Aitchison, on as a late substitute, was sent tumbling in the box by Lennard Sowah.

    It was the champions’ 17th consecutive league victory and restored their 22-point advantage at the top of the table as their domestic domination shows no sign of abating.

    Roberts came into the Celtic starting XI in one of two changes to the team that saw off St Johnstone on Wednesday night. The winger, who last started for the Bhoys on Christmas Eve away to Hamilton, replaced Moussa Dembele, with Scott Sinclair moving inside to spearhead the Hoops attack.

    An injury to Stuart Armstrong in the warm-up forced Brendan Rodgers into another enforced switch, with McGregor promoted from the bench. Emilio Izaguirre took his spot among the substitutes.

    The Bhoys bossed possession in the early stages but it took them until the ninth minute to garner a sight of goal, with Nir Bitton having a shot deflected over from 20 yards. And the Israeli internationalist was also on the end of the resultant corner, glancing a volley wide from Roberts’ delivery.  

    An alert James Forrest then robbed John Souttar of possession inside the box but Sinclair was flagged offside when he received the ball.  

    Aside from long-range shots from Malaury Martin and Jamie Walker, the visitors were generally preoccupied by defensive duties, flooding men behind the ball in attempt to frustrate the champions.

    It was proving a successful strategy as the Hoops struggled to meaningfully test goalkeeper Jack Hamilton but on the half-hour mark he was beaten as the home side clinically broke the deadlock with their first shot on target.

    Having just been moved back out to his traditional left-flank position by Brendan Rodgers, Sinclair collected possession and embarked on a mazy run. He picked out the run from McGregor, and the midfielder impressively took the ball in his stride before dispatching a shot into the net via the inside of the post.  

    The thrusting runs of Kieran Tierney down the left looked the most likely outlet for Celtic to add to their tally but Ian Cathro’s side held firm and could have levelled on the stroke of half-time had Walker kept his header down from Martin’s free-kick.

    That was a timely reminder of the slenderness of the home side’s lead and they started the second period with urgency and purpose in search of building a more secure advantage.

    James Forrest flashed a dangerous cross into the box, Cristian Gamboa shot wide and only a last-ditch from Liam Smith denied Forrest as the winger bore down on goal.

    Bitton and Roberts also had shots comfortably saved by Hamilton, though the keeper was motionless when Roberts took aim again in the 68th minute and was relieved see the ball curl inches beyond his far post.

    Hearts survived this spell of pressure, however, and they created their best chance of the match, when Martin broke clear from a simple ball over the top but Craig Gordon was able to claw his shot to safety.

    Straight up the other end, Tierney showed terrific tenacity to beat Smith to the ball and send in a wonderful cross for Sinclair, but the wide-man was unable to divert the ball home.

    The killer second goal finally arrived with 13 minutes left on the clock. Tierney was the architect, drilling the ball across goal and when Aaron Hughes failed to deal with the danger, Sinclair forced the ball home from close-range.

    Celtic quickly inflicted further punishment as the away side’s resistance crumbled. Once again, Tierney was the provider, racing on to Henderson’s pass and cutting the ball back for Roberts, who had time to take a touch before lashing high into the net.  

    Substitute Liam Henderson had a shot blocked by Hughes and then Sinclair crowned off a memorable afternoon with a confidently-taken penalty after teenager Aitchison had been felled by Sowah in the box.

    CELTIC (4-3-3) Gordon; Gamboa (Lustig 79), Simunovic, Boyata, Tierney; Brown, Bitton, Armstrong; Roberts (Aitchison 82), Sinclair, Forrest (Henderson 67)
    Not Used: De Vries, Mackay-Steven, Sviatchenko, Izaguirre,

    HEARTS (4-2-3-1) Hamilton; Smith, Souttar, Hughes, Sowah; Kitchen (Beith 81) Cowie; Nicholson (Choulay 59), Martin (Sammon 78) Walker; Johnsen
    Not Used: Noring, Oshaniwa, Bikey, Zanata,

    Website Man of the Match: Kieran Tierney

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