CELTIC moved another step towards a historic double treble as they dismissed the challenge of Championship strugglers Brechin City in a one-sided encounter at Parkhead this afternoon.

Goals from James Forrest and Scotty Sinclair in the opening 11 minutes had the fans sitting back waiting for an onslaught on keeper Graeme Smith.

Amazingly, those counters remained the only strikes of the first-half as the champions, as anticipated, dominated possession and moved the ball around sweetly.

However, despite a procession of opportunities, there was no real cutting edge to add to the scoreline before the interval.

Celtic, though, looked a bit more like their old selves in the second period with three more goals from Olivier Ntcham, Dedryck Boyata and Odsonne Eduard.

The breakthrough effort arrived in only two minutes when Sinclair skipped menacingly down the left wing before picking out in-form Forrest in the penalty box.

The Scotland international winger made no mistake as he sidefooted the ball wide of the desparing Smith for his 13th goal of a prolific campaign.

Nine minutes later, the Brechin defence gifted the Hoops a second goal as they got into a terrible fankle in their penalty box. It needed a defender to put his foot through the ball and get it down the pitch, but as they dithered in their decision-making, possession was gifted to Sinclair.

The English attacker didn’t hesitate as he left Smith helpless and, at that stage, the Glebe Park No.1 must have wondered what he had let himself in for by turning up for this game.

Brendan Rodgers’ side shifted the ball from side to side and the visitors were often chasing shadows, but there was no flow of goals for the remaining 34 minutes.

Dedryck Boyata sent a header over the crossbar, Forrest had a shot saved, Sinclair was off target and Edouard, starting the game with Moussa Dembele on the subs’ bench and Leigh Griffiths injured, also had a drive blocked.

The Hoops were comfortable as they dictated the tempo, but they somehow did not convert that superiority into goals.

The excellent Ntcham looked lively in midfield and was doing his best to get on the scoresheet. The French Under-21 midfielder fired two efforts just off target and saw another deflected to safety.

The Brechin City players, without a solitary league win this season, looked mightily relieved when referee Steven McLean blew his whistle for half-time.

But it took the home side a mere four minuntes to add a third to the scoreline when Ntcham claimed his seventh goal of the season.

Edouard held the ball up well before sending a pass into the tracks of Mikael Lustig as he raced down the right wing.

The Swedish defender flighted over an inviting cross and Ntcham’s timing was perfection as he nodded the ball wide of the helpless Smith.

Seven minutes later, the luckless City custodian was fishing the ball out of his net for a fourth time – beaten on this occasion by Boyata.

Callum McGregor sent a right-wing corner-kick into the danger zone and, remarkably, the Belgian international defender wasn’t picked up as he made his run into the box and his header thumped into the net.

Just after the hour mark, Rodgers made a double substitution when he replaced skipper Scott Brown and Boyata with Eboue Kouassi and Nir Bitton.

A few minutes later, he introduced Michael Johnston on the left wing for Sinclair.

Brechin gave Craig Gordon a scare in the 64th minute after he had made a save to concede a corner-kick. Sean Crighton got his head to the set-play, but his attempt whipped just wide of the upright.

However, Rodgers’ men had the final say four minutes from the end when they claimed a fifth.

Edouard, who had just blazed over moments earlier, latched onto a Lustig pass and thumped the ball low past Smith.

Now all eyes will be on the draw for the next round which will be made at Tynecastle tomorrow following the Edinburgh derby between Hearts and Neil Lennon’s Hibs.

CQN Man of the Match ‘by a County Mile’ – Olivier Ntcham.

TEAM: Gordon; Lustig, Boyata (sub: Bitton 61), Ajer, Tierney; Brown (sub: Kouassi 61), Ntcham; Forrest, McGregor, Sinclair (sub: Johnston 69); Edouard.


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