CELTIC 3 AIRDRIE 0
SCOTT SINCLAIR was involved in the craziest five minutes of his career as Celtic eased past the League One part-timers to claim a place in tomorrow’s Scottish Cup draw.
The English attacker BLEW a penalty-kick, MISSED a sitter from three yards and NETTED the breakthrough goal in a remarkable period that left the Parkhead onlookers absolutely mesmerised.
Later on, he scored a second goal and was then DENIED a hat-trick. The first game of 2019 for the player certainly wasn’t dull.
OOPS…Scott Sinclair prepares his run-up that led to a penalty-kick miss.
In the 31st minute, referee Andrew Dallas had no hesitation in pointing to the spot after Emilio Izaguirre had been sent spinning following a wayward and reckless challenge from Chris O’Neil.
Anthony Ralston fashioned the opportunity as he powered in from the right, swept away from a couple of tackles and attempted a shot with his left foot.
The ball was blocked and broke to the Honduran left-back who was flattened as he tried to latch onto the rebound. Sinclair, who missed a penalty-kick in the Betfred League Cup Final against Aberdeen last month, stepped up to drive the ball low to keeper David Hutton’s right.
The Airdrie No.1 dived low to push the ball away for a corner. He must have done his homework – the effort was an exact replica as the one Sinclair passed up against the Dons’ Joe Lewis at Hampden.
WHOOPS…Scott Sinclair hammers the opener into the Airdrie net.
Four minutes later, Sinclair was unmarked at the far post as he raced onto a cross from Ralston, but, amazingly, he lifted the ball over the bar with the net gaping. It looked easier to score than to miss.
Sixty seconds afterwards, all was forgiven when the raider eventually claimed the breakthrough strike.
James Forrest set it up brilliantly with some patient play on the right before he rolled a cross in front of new Bhoy Oliver Burke who drove an angled effort towards the far post.
Hutton again spread himself to his right to get a hand to the ball to turn it aside, but on this occasion Sinclair was poised to swoop and he hammered the ball into the inviting net.
JOY BHOYS…Scott Brown congratulates two-goal man Scott Sinclair.
It was a goal the holders certainly deserved on pressure, but they were making heavy weather of breaking down a resilient and determined defence with a packed midfield in front of them.
Ralston had an early shot blocked by Hutton at his near post before Dedryck Boyata strode forward to send a wayward long-range drive high over the bar.
Ryan Christie then took a cross from the left on his chest, swivelled and hit the ball on the drop, but he was off target.
Forrest then had a first-time drive following an Izaguirre left-wing cross, but his precision was just out and the ball was safely grabbed by Hutton.
Right on the interval, Scott Bain made a remarkable save to make sure Brendan Rodgers’ men went in ahead at the interval.
Celtic were exposed as a right-wing cross from Josh Edwards found Leighton McIntosh unmarked smack in front of goal. He made contact to divert the ball goalwards, but Bain reacted with lightning reflexes to parry the effort.
There was pandemonium in the penalty box for a moment or two and the keeper made another block before the ball was eventually cleared.
Shortly after the turnaround, Hutton was in hectic action again as he hurtled to his left to push away an excellent curling drive from Callum McGregor.
In the 56th minute, Sinclair struck to double the Hoops advantage with a right-foot shot that flew unerringly into the net after a corner-kick hadn’t been cleared.
WEAH TO GO…Celtic new Bhoy Timothy Weah celebrates his first goal.
Six minutes later, a neat flick from Burke set up an opportunity for the always-eager Forrest, but his well-struck first-timer was superbly touched away by the overworked Hutton.
Burke looked desperate to make an impact and in the 65th minute he strode in menacingly, but his powerful shot was off target.
In the 68th minute, Sinclair hammered in a rebound off the keeper, but was wrongly flagged offside. The raider was onside when he made his run forward and the assistant referee blundered by raising his flag.
Hutton pushed away Burke’s thunderous low shot and the Englishman was onto it in a flash to ram in it home. It WAS a goal and Sinclair was denied the opportunity of a hat-trick before he was taken off with Timothy Weah taking his place a minute later.
At the same time, Mikey Johnston came on for the hard-working Forrest.
We’re a mere 90 minutes into a new year and already Celtic have been on the end of a nonsensically wrong call from a match official. It has to be hoped it is not a trend that will be followed for the remainder of 2019. Who mentioned VAR?
SMILES BETTER…Timothy Weah can’t disguise his happiness at his sudden impact.
There was a warm welcome back in the 81st minute when Nir Bitton came on for Scott Brown – the Israeli’s first appearance since February last year.
Two minutes later, Weah marked his first appearance at Parkhead with a wonderful goal after a breathtaking through ball from Boyata.
The Belgian split the back lot with an inviting pass and the American international’s timing was exquisite as he got round the back of the defence to knock the ball wide of the advancing Hutton.
Burke missed a glorious opportunity to join his fellow-loan Celt on the scoresheet when Izaguirre curled in a cross from the left, but the Scotland international squandered the opportunity with a wayward header that missed the target.
TEAM: Bain; Ralston, Boyata, Benkovic, Izaguirre; Brown (sub: Nitton 81), McGregor; Forrest (sub: Johnston 69), Christie, Sinclair (sub: Weah 69); Burke.