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  • Derby delight as Celts continue title march

    Derby delight as Celts continue title march

    By: Mark Henderson on 08 Apr, 2015 21:43

  • Scottish Premiership
    Celtic Park, Glasgow
    Wednesday, April 8, 2015

    CELTIC...2
    (Commons 45pen, Johansen 63)

    PARTICK THISTLE...0

    CELTIC maintained their seven-point lead at the league summit after cruising to a comfortable 2-0 home victory over Glasgow rivals Partick Thistle.

    Kris Commons fired the Hoops ahead from the penalty spot just before the interval after Stuart Armstrong had been felled in the box by James Craigen, the midfielder seeing red for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity.

    Donning the captain’s armband in place of the suspended Scott Brown, Stefan Johansen capped off an outstanding performance with a beautifully-crafted goal in the second half to clinch the spoils.

    Brown was replaced by Nir Bitton in midfield as the manager made three changes to the team that dispatched 2-0 St Mirren last week.

    Gary Mackay-Steven and John Guidetti were also restored to the starting XI, with James Forrest and Anthony Stokes dropping to the bench.

    Bursting from the blocks, Celtic could have opened the scoring within the opening 60 seconds as Virgil van Dijk deflected Armstrong’s low cross on to the bar. Moments later, Johansen was only denied by a last-gasp challenge from Conrad Balatoni.

    The home side’s high-tempo, intricate passing and fluid movement were proving too hot to handle for the Jags as the chances continued to mount up.

    Showing a deceptive turn of foot, Bitton burst into the area but was thwarted by goalkeeper Scott Fox, before Commons saw a shot blocked after twisting and turning in the box.

    Although Steven Lawless dragged a shot wide on the break for the visitors, it was only the briefest respite as the Hoops charged upfield and came close on two occasions to making the breakthrough.

    Emilio Izaguirre, who had scored a rare goal against Thistle earlier in the campaign, threatened to repeat the feat as he chased a return ball into the box.

    Although he was unable to make clean contact, the loose ball looked seemed destined to be buried by the head of Guidetti, only for Balatoni to save his side once again.

    Left-back Callum Booth was next to the rescue, his desperate dive halting Mackay-Steven’s goal-bound shot after he had been teed-up by Johansen.

    Somehow, Alan Archibald’s side had survived the Celtic siege, building more possession and show more attacking enterprise.

    And when Kallum Higginbotham sent an acrobatic volley in the direction of the far corner, it looked as though they would take a shock lead. However, Craig Gordon underlined why he’s in the running for Player of the Year with a stunning, reaction save.

    Gradually, Celtic rediscovered their earlier rhythm, with Commons not far away with a fizzing drive from distance that whistled over the bar.

    Johansen was close to meeting Mackay-Steven’s cross, before Guidetti headed straight at Fox from Izaguirre’s inviting delivery as the Hoops upped the pace again.

    And on the stroke of half-time the visitors’ resistance crumbled. Armstrong was hauled down by Craigen as he attempted to fasten onto a return pass and referee Willie Collum immediately pointed to the spot, before giving the Thistle midfielder his marching orders.

    Commons stepped up and confidently dispatched the penalty into the corner.

    Trailing 1-0 and down to 10 men, the situation looked bleak for the Maryhill side at the restart and the early signs were ominous as Commons tested Fox with powerful drive. Johansen was first to the rebound but he was unable to pick out a team-mate in the middle.

    Thistle, however, held firm and spiritedly continued to commit men forward, though their only meaningful effort on goal was an instinctive strike by Abdul Osman which cleared the near post by some distance.

    And just beyond the hour-mark, they were undone by a wonderfully-worked goal as Ronny Deila’s side doubled their advantage.

    A swift exchange of passes saw the Bhoys cut a path into the box. Guidetti’s deft flick then found Johansen and the Norwegian applied the finish, lashing the ball into the far corner.  

    It was then a matter of how many for the Bhoys as Fox saved from substitute James Forrest after the winger had raced in on goal.

    Armstrong saw a shot charged down and Leigh Griffiths was left frustrated after he glanced Mackay-Steven’s cross inches beyond the far post.

    Some slack defending presented Gary Fraser with a sight of goal from 18 yards but Gordon, once again, showed his class with a superb stop.

    As the clock ticked down, Johansen almost scored a sensational solo effort as he danced past several defenders to bear down on Fox but the shot-stopper managed to get a touch on the skipper’s clipped effort, pushing it over the bar.

    However, ultimately, it had been another successful night for the champions as they took another step closer to the title.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Matthews (Fisher 66), Denayer, van Dijk, Izaguirre; Armstrong, Bitton; Commons (Forrest 66), Johansen, Mackay-Steven; Guidetti (Griffiths 75)
    Not Used: Zaluska, Ambrose, Stokes, McGregor

    PARTICK THISTLE (4-2-3-1) Fox; O’Donnell, Frans, Balatoni, Booth; Craigen, Osman; Higginbotham, Bannigan, Lawless (McDaid 58); Stevenson (Taylor 55)
    Not Used: Gallacher, Richards-Everton, Fraser, Wilson, Keenan

    Website Man of the Match: Stefan Johansen 

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