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  • Forrest the hat-trick hero as Hoops edge five-goal thriller

    Forrest the hat-trick hero as Hoops edge five-goal thriller

    By: Mark Henderson on 10 Feb, 2018 14:15

  • Scottish Cup fifth round
    Celtic Park, Glasgow
    Saturday, February 10, 2018

    CELTIC...3
    (Forrest 2, 10, 54)

    PARTICK THISTLE...2
    (Doolan 20, Sammon 84)

    JAMES Forrest hammered in his first-ever hat-trick as the Hoops edged past Partick Thistle to seal their spot in the Scottish Cup quarter-finals, on the day the Celtic family remembered former player Liam Miller.

    Forrest had already bagged his brace inside the opening 10 minutes as the champions made a blistering start to the contest.

    Although Kris Doolan reduced arrears, profiting from Jozo Simunovic’s errant back-pass, Forrest finished off a long passing move early in the second half to put the hosts back in charge.

    Brendan Rodgers’ side spurned chances to add to their tally, before Connor Sammon gave the visitors hope with a goal six minutes from time.

    But the Celts saw out the closing stages to book their place in Sunday’s draw for the last-eight of the competition, keeping their hopes alive of back-to-back trebles.  

    There were three changes to the team who faced Kilmarnock last week, with Mikael Lustig, Simunovic and Scott Sinclair coming into the starting XI. The injured Dedryck Boyata, Jack Hendry and Eboue Kouassi dropped out.

    There was a poignant start to proceedings as Paradise stood in a minute’s silence to pay tribute to Miller, who sadly passed away last night at the age of 36. Both sets of players also wore black armbands to mark the memory of the Irishman, a graduate of the Celtic Youth Academy who went on to make 44 appearances for the club.

    Once the action got underway, it only took the Hoops 76 seconds to open the scoring as they burst from the blocks. Moussa Dembele controlled Scott Brown’s ball over the top and pulled the trigger. Although Danny Devine managed to block the striker’s shot, Forrest was on hand to bury the loose ball.

    Playing at a furious tempo, the Hoops quickly fashioned further chances, with no-one able to capitalise on Sinclair’s dangerous cutback from the byline and Dembele heading over from Kieran Tierney’s delivery.

    Within 10 minute, they broke Thistle’s resistance again thanks to a superb solo goal from Forrest. Picking up possession near the halfway line, the winger accelerated away from several opponents, danced past two defenders and then beat goalkeeper Tomas Cerny with a fine finish.

    Brimming with confidence, Forrest continued to cause consternation to the Jags with his purposeful runs and trickery. And he almost made it 3-0 and bagged a 15-minute hat-trick after combing with Musonda, making his first home start, but Cerny pulled off an excellent save to push his low effort beyond the post.

    It had been one-way traffic, with Dorus de Vries barely having a touch of the ball, but a defensive mistake allowed the Maryhill side back into the contest. Simunovic’s back-pass was intercepted by Doolan, who bore down on de Vires and fired home.

    That goal gave Alan Archibald’s a lift and Tierney had to make a timely interception to thwart Ryan Edwards on the half-hour mark.

    From being in complete control, Celtic had lost their earlier fluency and attacking verve, with the game becoming increasingly scrappy and punctuated by fouls.

    However, the interval provided them with an opportunity to regroup and they restored their two-goal nine minutes after the restart. Following a prolonged passage of passes, Musonda Tierney and Sinclair provided the penetration down the left.

    And when Sinclair picked out Forrest in the middle, the Scotland internationalist took a terrific touch to evade a host of Thistle defenders, before rifling beyond Cerny to claim his treble and move onto 16 goals for the season.

    Moments later, the champions threatened from the same flank as Tierney’s inviting cross flashed across the six-yard box, with no takers.   

    At the other end, a tremendous tackle from Kirstoffer Ajer on Blair Spittal, just as the wide-man prepared to pull the trigger, saw the Celts launch a swift breakaway only for the move to fizzle out.

    As Thistle committed more men forward, Brendan Rodgers’ men came close to inflicting further punishment - Dembele dragged a shot wide, before Sinclair shot straight at Cerny after being played in by Brown

    Still, it looked as though it would be a comfortable conclusion to the contest for the cup holders until substitute Sammon pulled a late goal back for the Firhill side.

    There would be no late rescue act for the Jags, however, as the cup holders marched on and took another step towards the Hampden showpiece in May.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) De Vries; Lustig, Simunovic, Ajer, Tierney; Ntcham, Brown; Forrest (Kouassi 88), Musonda (McGregor 65), Sinclair (Edouard 79); Dembele
    Not Used: Bain, Gamboa, Rogic, Miller

    PARTICK THISTLE (4-2-3-1) Cerny; McGinn, Devine, Cargill, Booth; Barton (Osman 57), Woods (McCarthy 79); Spittal, Edwards, Erskine; Doolan (Sammon 60)
    Not Used: Scully, Dumbuya, Penrice, Storey

    Website Man of the Match: James Forrest

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