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  • Dominant Celts make winning start to their title defence

    Dominant Celts make winning start to their title defence

    By: Mark Henderson on 04 Aug, 2018 16:56

  • Scottish Premiership
    Celtic Park, Glasgow
    Saturday, August 4, 2018

    CELTIC…3
    (Rogic 7, Edouard 26, Ntcham 50)

    LIVINGSTON…1
    (Robinson 90+2)

    CELTIC made a purposeful start in their pursuit of eight-in-row, dispatching Livingston 3-1 in dominant style in front of a packed-out Paradise.  

    The Bhoys burst from the blocks and Tom Rogic broke the deadlock with a thumping header, before Odsonne Edouard swiftly doubled the lead with his fourth goal of the season. Olivier Ntcham sealed the victory early in the second half from the penalty spot after Callum McGregor had been fouled in the box by Declan Gallagher.

    With the last kick of the ball, the visitors scored a consolation through Scott Robinson, but that couldn’t take the shine off a positive performance. And the Hoops will go into Wednesday’s hotly-anticipated UEFA Champions League qualifier against AEK Athens with plenty of belief.

    Jonny Hayes made his first competitive appearance in over eight months, having missed the second half of last season with a broken leg, which he sustained in a 2-0 win away to Dundee on Boxing Day. The 31-year-old’s inclusion was one of four changes to the team that earned a goal-less draw away to Rosenborg to reach the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round.

    Rogic and Mikael Lustig came in for their first starts of the season following their World Cup exploits for Australia and Sweden, respectively. And Jozo Simunovic was restored to the side after serving his two-game suspension in the Champions League qualifiers.

    Before beginning their pursuit for an eighth successive title, the Celtic family celebrated seven-in-a-row as club legend Danny McGrain unfurled the league flag to huge roars from a sell-out crowd.  

    And the Hoops faithful were soon back on their feet as the champions opened the scoring with seven minutes on the clock. Lustig’s cross was only cleared as far as Hayes on the left, and his inviting delivery from the byline was met by Rogic, who rose highest amid a ruck of defenders to head into the net.

    That early breakthrough was no surprise as it was all Celtic in the opening stages, with the visitors encamped on the edge of their own box in an attempt to stem the tide.  

    But the Bhoys’ quick passing, movement and width saw them continue to find a way through, and Forrest had a shot blocked after goalkeeper Liam Kelly failed to deal with Hayes’ delivery. Kelly was called into action again when he had to race from his goal to prevent McGregor from fastening on to Ntcham’s through ball.

    Livingston eventually emerged from their defensive shell in the 21st minute to register their first effort on goal, Scott Pittman blasting harmlessly over from distance. Normal service quickly resumed, however, as Kelly managed to readjust to keep out Ntcham’s deflected drive on his line after Rogic had teed-up the French Under-21 internationalist.

    Moments later, Celtic doubled their advantage. Leading the charge on a lightning counter-attack, Rogic thrust across the halfway line and played in Ntcham. The midfielder sent the ball across for Edouard, who had simple task of finding the empty net, with Kelly stranded.  

    As the one-sided pattern of the match continued, it was simply a matter of whether the Hoops would add to their tally before the break And the influential McGregor wasn’t far away, finding the side-netting on the volley, having shown terrific technique to control a ball over the top.

    With the home side reasserting their control of the contest straight from the restart, it only took them five minutes for number three to arrive. McGregor was sent tumbling in the box by Declan Gallagher and referee Nick Walsh, immediately pointed to the spot. Ntcham took responsibility from 12 yards and found the corner.

    Livingston player-manager, Kenny Miller, then came to his side’s rescue, heading Lustig’s goal-bound volley off the line after the Swede had controlled McGregor’s corner on his chest.

    With some big matches on the horizon and the three points effectively secured, Brendan Rodgers made a double-switch, sending on Leigh Griffiths and Kieran Tierney for Edouard and Hayes.

    The changes made no difference as the Bhoys maintained their dominance and, after robbing Robinson in the box, Rogic was agonisingly close to his second as his attempt from an acute angle rolled across the line.   

    Back after injury, Griffiths was determined to make an impression and he was denied by Kelly after latching on to Scott Brown’s ball over the top. He also saw a corner cannon off the near post, with Simunovic unable to keep the rebound down.

    Forrest and McGregor also threatened to inflict further punishment, before Robinson gave something for the away support to cheer as he forced the ball home from close-range as the clock ticked down.

    CELTIC (3-4-2-1) Gordon; Lustig, Ajer, Simunovic; Forrest, Brown, Ntcham, Hayes (Tierney 60); Rogic (Johnston 73), McGregor, Edouard (Griffiths 60)
    Not Used: Bain, Hendry, Sinclair, Christie

    LIVINGSTON (3-4-2-1) Kelly; Brown (McMillan 60), Gallagher, Halkett, Saunders, Kaja; Pittman, Byrne, Robinson, K. Miller (Hamilton 77); L. Miller (Lawless 60)
    Not Used: Stewart, Lithgow, Jacobs, Cadden

    Website Man of the Match: Tom Rogic

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