CELTIC 3 FALKIRK 0
TWO quickfire second-half goals eased Celtic through to the Scottish Cup fourth round at Parkhead this evening.
The holders, who are looking for a fifth successive triumph in the competition, dominated against League One leaders Falkirk, but just could not get the ball in the net until a devastating double strike 11 minutes after the turnaround.
In the 56th minute, Tom Rogic set up comeback Bhoy James Forrest who swivelled inside to set up a right-foot shot that took a slight deflection on its way past the bewildered Robbie Mutch.
Two minutes later, the gallant visitors’ keeper was picking the ball out of the net for a second time when Ryan Christie, who had struggled to menace in the opening 45 minutes, accepted a pass from Jonjoe Kenny before arrowing a low left-foot drive in at the post beyond the diving Mutch.
On-loan Everton right-back Kenny was also involved in the third goal in the 79th minute when he set up substitute Mohamed Elyounoussi to make no mistake.
GRIEF…Ryan Christie reacts to another shot off target.
RELIEF…Ryan Christie is congratulated by Scott Brown after the second goal.
As expected, it was one-way traffic in the opening 45 minutes with a steady procession of green-and-white hooped jerseys charging down on Mutch’s goal.
Unfortunately, to continue a frustrating theme of a wretched campaign, the finishing was atrocious.
Chances were set up, opportunities were presented and the finishing efforts were wayward as the ball flew high or wide.
If incoming chief executive Dominic McKay is a big fan of rugby he will have noted Christie’s unerring ability to put the ball over the bar. Three tims in the first-half, he was given a sight of goal and all three occasions the ball sailed harmlessly into orbit.
Leigh Griffiths, making a rare first-team start, looked slow to react to opportunities that came his way and that was highlighted in the 11th minute after a well-worked corner-kick on the left. David Turnbull picked out Forrest, took the return and slid an inch-perfect pass in front of the hitman in an ideal shooting position.
However, his left-foot drive lacked precision and was yards wide of Mutch’s left-hand post.
THE BREAKTHROUGH GOAL…James Forrest enjoys his comeback start with a drive beyond Robbie Mutch.
WELCOME BACK…James Forrest celebrates his first goal since September.
The young keeper did make an excellent save only moments earlier when he got down to his right to push away a smart effort from Turnbull.
In the 25th minute, Griffiths was looking for a penalty-kick after crashing to the ground following a challenge from Kai Fotheringham, but referee John Beaton, with a goood view, wasn’t impressed and waved play on.
Chances were made, chances were squandered as the holders rolled forward looking for a breakthrough goal.
Mutch was left standing as Turnbull swept in a delightful 25-yard free-kick, but the ball just cleared the bar and dropped on top of the net.
That was followed by Kristoffer Ajer galloping into attack, but his dreadful finishing shot was nearer to the corner flag than Mutch’s goal.
The Norwegian caught the eye with his willingness to get forward at every opportunity, but it’s obvious he will have to work on his finishing.
Griffiths could have netted the opener 20 seconds into the second-half after being fed in by Turnbull, but his shot lacked precision and was beaten away by Mutch. It was turning into a frustrating evening for the striker who has claimed a meagre seven goals this season.
THE SECOND GOAL…Ryan Christie (extreme right) slams a low shot past Robbie Mutch.
THE THIRD GOAL…Mohamed Elyounoussi deftly flicks the ball home.
Then came the double salvo from Forrest and Christie to flatten the valiant Falkirk outfit and John Kennedy freshened up things by replacing Griffiths with Albian Ajeti in the 61st minute.
Five minutes later, Mutch pushed away a superb drive from Turnbull and the ball fell to Forrest, but he screwed it side of the gaping target.
Ismaila Soro replaced Rogic in the 72nd minute and moments later Elyounoussi came on for Forrest.
The Norwegian celebrated his introduction in the 79th minute when he should composure to take the ball from Kenny in his stride and knock it wide of the helpless Mutch.
So, no shocker on this occasion with Scott Bain a virtual spectator with all of the play down the other end.
However, there must still be a concern that it took so long to break down a willing rearguard after controlling the encounter for such a long time.
Having said that, Celtic are still on course to win silverware in a torrid campaign.
TEAM: Bain; Kenny, Ajer, Welsh, Laxalt; Brown, Christie, Turnbull, Rogic (sub: Soro 72); Forrest (sub: Elyounoussi 74), Griffiths (sub: Ajeti 61).