HAMILTON ACCIES 0 CELTIC 1
JAMES FORREST was the matchwinner with an early strike, but the anticipated goal avalanche never materialised at Hamilton this afternoon.
And yet what a bright and enterprising start we had to the action at a windswept stadium that made cavalier football a little tricky.
A mesmerising six-man move ended with the Hoops taking the lead in only four minutes with Accies left chasing shadows.
Ryan Christie started it with a short free-kick on the right to Christopher Jullien who moved in onto Kristoffer Ajer who galloped forward before passing to Callum McGregor. He speedily moved it on to Odsonne Edouard and the gifted Frenchman touched it wide on the left to debutant Mohamed Elyounoussi, eager to make a first impression.
He certainly managed that with a quick look up and then a perfect pass to the near post where Forrest’s timing was perfection as he arrived smack on the button to touch the ball into the net.
WING AND A SLAYER….James Forrest scores the winning goal in the fourth minute.
It was a breathtaking little cameo and showed what this team is all about in moving the ball forward in a menacing fashion.
The side kicked off with five of Neil Lennon’s summer signings in the line-up and, as expected, they spent most of the opening 45 minutes camped in the cramped Accies half.
It took until eight minutes from the interval for Fraser Forster to test his gloves when he dealt easily with a hopeful ball in from the right from Blair Alston.
CONGRATULATIONS…James Forrest is engulfed by delighted team-mates following his strike.
It was one-way traffic towards Owain Fon Williams in the Accies goal, but the packed defence in front of him did a steady job in protecting him from the eager champions.
After the initial early breakthrough, the Celts found it difficult to fashion another clear-cut opportunity.
Full-backs Hatem Abd Elhamed and Boli Bolingoli were adventurous as they came surging forward and the Israeli’s use of the ball was exemplary as he demonstrated with a superb 40-yard pass to Forrest, but the move broke down.
The Belgian raided well on the left and looked as though he was forming a good partnership with Elyounoussi.
In the 13th minute, Scott Brown had a vicious 25-yarder blocked by Sam Stubbs, son of former Celtic stalwart Alan, and moments later Forrest and Bolingoli combined crisply on the left before the full-back slung over an inviting cross that was headed just over the bar by Edouard.
In the 23rd minute, there was some slick play again on the left with the former Rapid Vienna player firing over a good cross, but, unfortunately, no-one was attacking the ball and the chance went a-begging.
It was only a matter of time before Markus Fjortoft was booked as he gave away a series of free-kicks and there was one too many in the 44th minute when he hauled back Edouard.
BEST FOOT FORWARD…new Bhoy Mohamed Elyounoussi has a crack at goal.
The tempo dropped considerably in the second-half, but Forrest was right of luck when he came so close to adding a second six minutes after the turnaround.
The winger took two defenders out of the play as he cut inside onto his left foot, but his vicious drive got the merest of touches off the keeper’s fingertips onto the underside of the crossbar and bounced to safety.
Lennon made his first change in the 67th minute when Elyounoussi, understandably tiring after only his second start in 2019, was taken off for the long-awaited return of Tom Rogic, making his first appearance since the 2-1 Scottish Cup Final win over Hearts on May 25.
THUMBS UP…Boli Bolingoli who put in a Man of the Match performance.
He was welcomed to the fray with two quickfire fouls from Alex Gogic who was booked for the second indiscretion.
In the 77th minute, Edouard was removed with Vikoun Issouf Bayo taking his place while Leigh Griffiths remained on the bench.
McGregor was caught twice in possession as he looked sloppy and sub Marios Ogkmpoe almost punished the champions on one of the occasions, but drove his 18-yard angled shot wide of the post.
There was scare when Jullien went down after an accidental clash of heads with the bustling Ogkmpoe and it took almost four minutes of treatment before the Frenchman was give the okay to resume.
Jonny Hayes replaced Christie two minutes into stoppage time as Lennon saw the game out.
It ended up a lot more frantic than it should have done, but, once the dust had settled on a breezy day at the FOY stadium, the champions had retained the 100 per cent league record.
TEAM: Forster; Elhamed, Ajer, Jullien, Bolingoli; Brown, McGregor; Forrest, Christie (sub: Hayes 92), Elyounoussi (sub: Rogic 67); Edouard (sub: Bayo 77).