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  • Armstrong's Christmas cracker fires Celts five points clear

    Armstrong's Christmas cracker fires Celts five points clear

    By: Mark Henderson on 20 Dec, 2017 21:48

  • Scottish Premiership
    Celtic Park, Glasgow
    Wednesday, December 20, 2017

    (Armstrong 35, Tierney 68)


    STUART Armstrong’s Christmas cracker helped Celtic record a comfortable Glasgow derby victory over Partick Thistle and deliver further festive cheer in the form of a five-point lead at the top of the Premiership table.

    The 25-year-old’s thunderous drive into the top corner 10 minutes before the break put the Hoops in charge in Paradise. After Brendan Rodgers’ side had passed up further chances to add their tally in the second period, Kieran Tierney’s ferocious finish sealed a return to winning ways for the Bhoys following their first loss in over 18 months at Hearts on Sunday.    

    Odsonne Edouard led the line for the Bhoys in one of three changes to the team that lost to Hearts at Tynecastle on Sunday. There was also a slight reshuffle in defence and midfield, with Kristoffer Ajer and Armstrong recalled.

    And it was Armstrong who provided the early forward thrusts for the hosts, with one driving run into the box from the midfielder ending with a powerful low cross that had no takers. A foul on the Scotland internationalist then gave the Hoops a free-kick on the left. Armstrong took the set-piece himself and Ajer rose highest but was unable to direct his header on target.

    As the champions continued to probe for openings, Tierney had a shot saved from distance, before the Jags fashioned their first sight of goal in the 18th minute, when Jordan Turnbull headed a corner on target but Scott Brown was on hand to make the clearance.

    Back came the Bhoys, and Scott Sinclair had a dangerous cutback intercepted and Lustig sent a half-volley over as the game remained deadlocked. Just beyond the half-hour, a superb raking pass from Craig Gordon gave Sinclair his first sight of goal and the winger’s fizzing shot from 25 yards wasn’t far away.

    It had been a frustrating opening to the contest for Brendan Rodgers’ side, but the opening goal was worth waiting for. Tierney fed the onrushing Armstrong and he unleashed an unstoppable left-footed strike into the top corner.   

    That injected further impetus into the home side’s attacks and they immediately looked more menacing as they entered the final third, and another long-range Armstrong drive forced Tomas Cerny into a low stop.

    At half-time, new signing Marvin Compper was given a rousing reception as he told the Hoops faithful of his pride at becoming a Bhoy following his move from RB Leipzig.

    Celtic continued to dominate possession in the early stages of the second half. Tierney tried his luck twice and Armstrong had a free-kick blocked by the wall after Edouard had been sent tumbling by Daniel Devine.

    Armstrong's purposeful play came close to doubling the Hoops’ lead, the former Dundee United man evading his marker and sending in a dangerous delivery which was only as cleared as far as Edouard, whose attempt was smartly saved by Cerny.

    Moments later, Edouard threatened again when he connected with Sinclair’s cross but Cerny was equal to it. The pressure paid off midway through the half as Tierney collected Sinclair’s return pass in the box and powered a rasping shot high into the net.

    And the Celtic fans remained on their feet, not only paying their traditional tribute to the Lisbon Lions in the 67th minute, but bursting into song two minutes later to salute the team’s record-breaking 69-match domestic unbeaten run which came to an end last weekend.   

    Teenager Mikey Johnston entered the fray from the bench and soon made his presence felt, slipping a ball into Edouard, and his drilled cross was almost turned into his own net by Devine.

    Leigh Griffiths was also introduced in place of Edouard. His first touch was a pinpoint corner which Boyata bulleted goalwards but it was straight at Cerny. Looking eager to make an impact, Griffiths also had a near-post effort pushed away by Cerny following Brown’s pass.

    In the closing stages, Johnston displayed his nimble footwork and confidence with several piercing runs as the Bhoys bounced back and cemented their position at the league summit ahead of Saturday’s top-of-the-table tussle with Aberdeen.  

    CELTIC (4-1-2-3) Gordon; Lustig, Ajer, Boyata, Tierney; Brown; McGregor, Armstrong; Forrest (Hayes 62), Edouard (Griffiths 79), Sinclair (Johnston 71)
    Subs: Hazard, Dembele, Ntcham, Sviatchenko

    PARTICK THISTLE (4-2-3-1) Cerny; McGinn, Keown, Devine, Turnbull; Edwards, Barton; Spittal (Fraser 73), McCarthy (Erskine 58), Lawless; Storey (Doolan 64)
    Not Used: Scully, Nitriansky, Sammon, Nisbet

    Website Man of the Match: Stuart Armstrong


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