PARTICK THISTLE 1 CELTIC 4
STUART ARMSTRONG was the two-goal hero as Celtic coasted to victory at Firhill this evening to open a massive ELEVEN-point gap at the top of the league.
Brendan Rodgers’ side, who also have two games in hand over Sevco Rangers, netted four goals for their second successive away Premiership encounter with Leigh Griffiths and Callum McGregor also contributing in the second-half.
Boss Rodgers decided to give Moussa Dembele a rest with Griffiths coming in to lead the attack while Mikael Lustig moved from right-back to replace Jozo Simunovic in central defence. Cristian Gamboa took over from the Swede.
As expected, James Forrest, injured against Manchester City on Tuesday, missed out and Gary Mackay-Steven made his first start of the season.
It was an extremely low-key start from the Hoops and that was typified by a free-kick from Griffiths from 25 yards out in the 17th minute that flew well off target.
Six minutes later, the comeback frontman, scorer of 40 goals last term, fluffed his lines again when his shot from a Patrick Roberts pass lacked pace and precision and keeper Tomas Cerny flopped on the ball to repel the danger,
And Griffiths was slow again in the 33rd minute when Gamboa launched a long ball down the field. The striker’s first touch was out and once again the Firhill defence mopped up the threat.
Only moments later, Tom Rogic picked out Griffiths with a breathtakingly accurate long-range pass, but, unfortunately, Cerny read the situation and raced well outside his area to clear.
However, Griffiths played a major role in the Hoops taking the lead in the 39th minute with some cute play on the left.
Scott Brown released him with an accurate crossfield pass and the the frontman cut in front of Ziggy Gordon to send an inviting ball into the danger zone.
Armstrong’s timing was impeccable as he arrived bang on time to turn the ball past the keeper from six yards.
Four minutes after the interval, the visitors doubled their advantage and once again it was Armstrong who supplied the killer touch.
Gamboa was fouled on the right-wing and Griffiths rolled the free-kick to Armstrong 25 yards out. His touch was sublime and his low drive zipped under Cerny to give the Celtic fans something to sing about.
Amazingly, within 16 seconds, Rodgers’ team were three goals ahead.
Gamboa intercepted a Jags pass forward from the kick-off, slipped a pass to Rogic who moved the ball in front of Griffiths, lurking with menace inside the box.
He turned superbly inside the lunging Adam Barton before finishing with a flourish as he curled an effort wide of the clutching fingers of Cerny.
Two minutes later, however, the Hoops rearguard fell asleep as a deep free-kick arrived in the box and Liam Lindsay, looking well offside, was allowed to loop a header over Craig Gordon.
Thistle had the ball in the net shortly afterwards from another deadball situation, but this time refferee Craig Thomson spotted Sean Welsh was well offside and wiped out the effort.
In the 75th minute, Dembele joined the action as a sub for Roberts and came close to scoring only moments later with a snapshot that was blocked for a corner-kick by Welsh.
Eight minutes from the end, McGregor, a 58th minute sub for Mackay-Steven, made certain of the points after Emilio Izaguirre had picked him out with a left-wing cross.
McGregor didn’t hesitate as he arrived at speed to strike the ball first time and, once again, Cerny was helpless.
Rodgers could be satisfied with another job well done as the Hoops notched up three more points on their way to a sixth successive title.
TEAM: Gordon; Gamboa, Lustig, Sviatchenko, Izaguirre; Brown, Armstrong; Roberts (sub: Dembele 75), Rogic (sub: McGregor 58), Mackay-Steven (sub: Christie 58); Griffiths.
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