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  • Five-star Celts make perfect start to League Cup defence

    Five-star Celts make perfect start to League Cup defence

    By: Mark Henderson on 08 Aug, 2017 21:42

  • League Cup second round
    Celtic Park, Glasgow
    Tuesday, August 8, 2017

    (Griffiths 14 pen., 29, Ralston 21, Tierney 66, Armstrong 71)


    LEIGH Griffiths made it back-to-back doubles as Celtic ran riot against Kilmarnock in Paradise to book their place in the League Cup quarter-finals.

    The striker struck a double in Saturday’s 4-1 win over Hearts and his predatory instincts were on show again as he struck either side of Anthony Ralston’s first goal for the club, first from the penalty spot and then with a typically composed finish to put the Hoops in complete command at the interval.

    Kieran Tierney had donned the captain’s armband in the suspended Scott Brown’s absence to become one of the youngest-ever players to skipper the club. And he capped off a memorable night in his career with a truly magnificent goal midway through the second half, the 20-year-old thundering a drive into the top corner from fully 40 yards.  

    Stuart Armstrong rounded off the scoring from the impressive Ralston’s delivery as Brendan Rodgers’ side made the perfect start to their League Cup defence.  

    Kundai Benyu made his first competitive start for Celtic as the manager made a number of changes from the team that swept aside Hearts in the opening league match of the season. The 19-year-old, who had featured twice from the bench for the Bhoys since joining from Ipswich Town in the summer, started on the left of an attacking trident, operating behind lone striker Griffiths.

    Fellow teenagers Ralston, Kristoffer Ajer and Eboue Kouassi also came into the side, along with Armstrong, Tom Rogic and Jonny Hayes.  

    Despite all the alterations, the Hoops were swiftly into their stride, with Rogic and Hayes linking up well on the right and forcing a corner. Griffiths took the resultant set-piece and the onrushing Ajer was on course to connect with the cross until Lee Erwin’s interception.

    In the 13th minute, Celtic’s early pressure was rewarded with the opening goal. Fantastic foraging work from Hayes saw him rob Jordan Jones of possession and drive into the box. Attempting to atone for his error, the Kilmarnock winger felled Hayes and referee Alan Muir, after a few seconds deliberation, pointed to the spot. Up stepped Griffiths and he made no mistake, confidently tucking the ball into the corner.

    Maintaining their high intensity, Brendan Rodgers’ side continued to pour forward, and some nice interplay between Miller and Armstrong down the left saw the former pick out Griffiths, whose shot was blocked by Kirk Broadfoot.

    Griffiths then turned provider, whipping in a dangerous low delivery that Rogic was inches away from reaching in the middle.

    Number two soon arrived, however. Griffiths sent over a corner from the left and Ralston showed great desire to bullet home a header, an unforgettable moment for the boyhood Hoops fan and Celtic Youth Academy graduate.

    Still, the one-way traffic continued, with the Rugby Park side barely venturing out of their own half as Celtic’s high-tempo and furious pressing kept them firmly on the back-foot.

    After another sweeping passing move, Rogic played in Griffiths, who stung Jamie McDonald’s hands with a rasping drive. But the ever-dangerous Griffiths soon had the ball in the net as the rampant Celts made it 3-0. Tierney’s lofted pass found Griffiths, who had evaded the offside trap, in space and he raced in on goal before calmly slotting the ball past MacDonald.

    The hosts should have inflicted further punishment 10 minutes before the break when Griffiths seized upon an errant pass and darted into the box but, with Hayes in space in the middle, the hit-man tried to surprise MacDonald at his near post and the former Hearts keeper was equal to it.  

    The only blot on the Bhoys’ copybook in a dominant first-half display was a serious-looking injury to Kouassi, which saw the midfielder stretchered down the tunnel six minutes prior to the interval. He was replaced by Olivier Ntcham.

    There looked no way back for Lee McCulloch’s side but Celtic were not content to see out the contest as they went in search for more goals after the restart.

    Following nimble footwork from Miller, MacDonald came to the visitors’ rescue with a wonderful low save from Armstrong’s curling effort. Armstrong looked keen to get on the act and he saw another shot charged down after a slick pass from Benyu.

    Then it was time for Tierney to take centre-stage and score an early contender for goal of the season. From fully 40 yards, the 20-year-old unleashed a thunderbolt into the top corner. Celtic Park erupted to acclaim a truly sensational strike.

    Brendan Rodgers’ side were far from finished, however, as Armstrong was rewarded for his persistence with number five. Ralston was the architect, overlapping down the right and supplying the midfielder at the far post and his cushioned volley found the net.

    Only some heroic goalkeeping from MacDonald and last-ditch defending denied Celtic adding to their tally as they maintained their supremacy until the final whistle.   

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Ralston, Ajer, Tierney, Miller; Kouassi (Ntcham 39),Armstrong; Hayes, Rogic, Benyu (McGregor 70); Griffiths (Forrest 63)
    Not Used: De Vries, Bitton, Sinclair, Lustig

    KILMARNOCK (4-5-1) MacDonald; Wilson (O’Donnell 58), Greer, Broadfoot, Taylor; Burke, McKenzie, Power, Frizzell, Jones (Graham 46); Erwin
    Not Used:  Bell, Boyd, Thomas, Waters, Samizadeh

    Website Man of the Match: Anthony Ralston


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