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  • Celts sign off 2017 with derby draw at Paradise

    Celts sign off 2017 with derby draw at Paradise

    By: Mark Henderson on 30 Dec, 2017 14:09

  • Scottish Premiership
    Celtic Park, Glasgow
    Saturday, December 30, 2017



    CELTIC were held to a frustrating goal-less draw by Rangers in today’s Glasgow derby but they will still head into the winter shutdown with a commanding lead at the top of the table.

    Scott Sinclair passed up the Scottish treble-winners’ best chance to find the net in the first-half, the winger firing wide in the box after being picked out by Stuart Armstrong.   

    And while Brendan Rodgers’ side were unable to harvest the three points they would have wanted against their city rivals, they can still reflect on a highly-satisfying first half of the season, which sees them in possession of the League Cup, holding a handsome lead at the league summit and still involved in European football.   

    There were three changes to the Celtic team that defeated Dundee on Boxing Day, with Stuart Armstrong, Scott Sinclair and Moussa Dembele coming into the starting XI at the expense of Oliver Ntcham, Leigh Griffiths and the injured Jonny Hayes.

    As the match began at a furious pace, it was the visitors who fashioned the first opening in the fifth minute. Josh Windass intercepted Mikael Lustig’s pass and played in Alfredo Morelos, but Craig Gordon was equal to the striker’s angled effort, with Lustig scrambling back to clear the rebound.

    Stung into action, the champions started to stamp their authority on proceedings and created a flurry of chances in quick succession.  

    First, following Armstrong’s free-kick, Dembele got an outstretched boot to Dedryck Boyata’s knockdown, but the Frenchman couldn’t generate sufficient power to trouble Wes Foderingham. James Forrest came even closer moments later. Taking Kieran Tierney’s low cross in his stride, he evaded one defender before seeing his low effort tipped inches wide by Foderingham.

    On the quarter-hour mark, the Ibrox side had another lucky escape. From another Armstrong set-piece, Dembele’s looping header forced Foderingham into a one-handed save. Sinclair’s had two attempts to convert the rebound yet, somehow, James Tavernier and then Foderingham managed to deny him on the line.

    Driven on by the tireless and tenacious Scott Brown, Brendan Rodgers’ side were now dominating the midfield, and a mazy run from Sinclair down the left saw them unlock the Rangers rearguard again 10 minutes before the interval. However, while the winger’s fizzing delivery eluded Foderingham, it also had too much pace for Dembele to reach it.  

    On the stroke of half-time, the Bhoys should have opened the scoring. Thrusting purposely into the box, Armstrong collected a return pass from Callum McGregor. His cutback fell invitingly for Sinclair but, as Paradise waited for the net to bulge, he dragged his shot narrowly wide of the post.

    That almost proved costly as Rangers were denied by a superb save from Gordon early in the second period. Daniel Candeias dug out a cross from the right and Tavernier met it flush on the volley, but Celtic’s No.1 got an outstretched hand to the ball.  

    Back came the Bhoys, and Armstrong, under pressure, could only lash wide from an acute angle after being supplied by Forrest. 

    As the half wore on, Graeme Murty’s side grew in ascendency, and Gordon made a sensational stop to block Morelos’ header from point-blank range. 

    In an attempt to wrestle back control of the contest, Griffiths and Ntcham were introduced for Dembele and Sinclair. But Morelos spurned another opportunity when he headed wide from Tavernier’s excellent cross. 

    With 10 minutes left on the clock, some clever footwork from Ntcham allowed the Bhoys to mount a breakaway, but Griffiths and then McGregor were crowded out before they could pull the trigger.

    Ntcham’s strength and composure was making a difference, however, and Forrest had a shot charged down in the box after being picked out by the French Under-21 internationalist. And although the hosts mounted some late pressure, they couldn’t conjure up a late winner to finish a memorable 2017 with a flourish as a hard-fought encounter ended in stalemate.  

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Lustig, Boyata, Ajer, Tierney; Brown; McGregor, Armstrong; Forrest, Dembele (Griffiths 61), Sinclair (Ntcham 72).
    Not Used: De Vries, Simunovic, Bitton, Edouard, Johnston

    RANGERS (4-1-4-1) Foderingham; Tavernier, Alves (Bates 18) Wilson, John; McCrorie; Candeias, Holt, Kranjcar (Pena 80) Windass; Morelos (Herrera 89).
    Not Used: Alnwick, Hodson, Hardie, Barjonas

    Website Man of the Match: Scott Brown


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