CELTIC 1 PARTICK THISTLE 0
CELTIC swept to a spectacular 14 points advantage at the top of the Premiership with a hard-fought victory over Partick Thistle at rain-swept Parkhead this evening.
Brendan Rodgers’ side have performed better this season, but it’s another three points to stretch their lead and they still have a game in hand.
The Hoops manager had promised changes from the team that beat Dundee 2-1 at the weekend and the Irishman was as good as his word.
Eight players came into the starting line-up, including teenage left-back Calvin Miller for his debut and Scott Sinclair, who played half-an-hour against the Dens Park side after coming back from injury, while skipper Scott Brown was restored after his one-match suspension.
The Hoops, of course, had overwhelmed the same opponents 4-1 at Firhill 11 days ago, but they got an early scare when powerful Jags frontman Ade Azeez thumped in an angled shot that was stopped by Craig Gordon.
In 16 minutes, though, the champions grabbed the advantage and it was Sinclair on target for his 11th goal of the campaign, the solitary effort that turned out to be the matchwinner.
Callum Booth was booked for hauling down Cristian Gamboa and Liam Henderson displayed some quick-thinking as he whipped the resultant free-kick into the tracks of the alert Englishman who clipped the ball high past Tomas Cerny from about 12 yards.
Miller was getting into his stride and he underlined his promise when he played a neat one-two with Patrick Roberts, but the Thistle keeper was well placed to deny him a dream debut goal.
Alan Archibald’s men still looked a threat when they broke forward and Gordon just got his fingertips to an effort from Azeez to claw it to safety.
Possibly it was understandable Celtic weren’t at their most fluent considering the amount of changes, but Thistle deserved credit for their effort in the first-half.
Moussa Dembele, strangely subdued in the opening 45 minutes, roared into action after the interval and lashed in a pass from Roberts that was frantically deflected wide by a desperate defender.
Next up, Roberts had a go from eight yards, but Cerny pulled off a fine reflex save.
Hoops debutant Miller was given a warm round of applause as he left the field in the 63rd minute to be replaced by Emilio Izaguirre.
Six minutes later, it looked as though Sinclair would get his second goal of the evening to soothe his team-mates’ – and the support’s – anxiety.
He was clean through on Cerny, but his finishing effort lacked precision and the goalie spread himself to save with his legs.
It was the winger’s last action of the game as Rodgers threw on Stuart Armstrong, who had been so influential in the triumph in Maryhill.
The Jags contued to be a threat and Chris Erskine had a fresh air swipe from eight yards with Sean Welsh hitting the follow-up effort at the grateful Gordon.
In the 76th minute, the Hoops made their final change when Leigh Griffiths came on for Dembele.
The Scotland international striker was involved almost immediately when he directed a header just off target from a free-kick delivery.
In the end, the Hoops had to be satisfied with a one-goal victory for their 12th successive Premiership win.
At the end of the evening, that was all that mattered.
TEAM: Gordon; Gamboa, Lustig, Sviatchenko, Miller (sub: Izaguirre 63); Brown, Henderson; Roberts, McGregor, Sinclair (sub: Armstrong 69); Dembele (sub: Griffiths 76).
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