Wednesday 28 September 2016

Leigh Griffiths helps Celtic stretch the gap at the top of the SPL with win over Partick Thistle

Ronnie Esplin

Published 12/03/2016 | 15:04

Celtic's Colin Kazim-Richards applauds the fans after the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership match at Firhill
Celtic's Colin Kazim-Richards applauds the fans after the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership match at Firhill

Celtic re-opened a four-point lead over Aberdeen at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership with a 2-1 win over Partick Thistle at Firhill as Leigh Griffiths once again got on the scoresheet.

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The Hoops striker notched his 35th goal of the season seconds before the interval before midfielder Callum McGregor added a second in the 54th minute.

The visitors were cruising until Jags midfielder Sean Welsh pulled a goal back from the spot in the 84th minute but they saw out the final moments to increase the gap over the Dons who host Kilmarnock later in the day, after which the Hoops have a game in hand.

The victory comes as some respite for Parkhead boss Ronny Deila whose future has been subject to speculation in recent weeks following draws in the league against Hamilton and Dundee.

Certainly the Celtic fans who made the short journey to Maryhill could have little to complain about although they could have done with a few more goals from their side.

The first of many attempts on the Thistle goal in the first-half came in the eighth minute when McGregor set up Griffiths with a cross but the striker's diving header was parried by Jags keeper Tomas Cerny, before he gathered.

Moments later McGregor fed Kris Commons, who played in the stretching Gary Mackay-Steven but the wide-man could not get enough of a touch on the ball and it slid past the far post.

Cerny then made saves from Commons and Griffiths with Commons, McGregor, returning midfielder Nir Bitton and defender Mikael Lustig missing the target with efforts while defender Erik Sviatchenko had a header cleared away from the line by Welsh.

It was not all about defending for the home side, however, as defender Liam Lindsay drew a fine save from Parkhead keeper Craig Gordon with a thunderous drive and a great run by Kris Doolan which took him past Hoops defender Charlie Mulgrew and deep into the Celtic box was ended when his toe-poke was saved by Gordon.

It looked like the Jags would hear the half-time whistle unscathed but in the 44th minute, from 12 yards out, Griffiths pulled Mackay-Steven's cross from the byeline out of the air, turned and fired low past Cerny, despite the best efforts of the keeper to keep it out.

It took only nine minutes of the second-half for Celtic to effectively secure the points.

McGregor took advantage of a hug gap in the Jags defence to drive into the penalty area, turn inside Thistle stopper Danny Seaborne and drive past Cerny into the far corner of the net.

Partick tried to fight back but there was no real conviction or belief.

Colin Kazim-Richards replaced Commons to add a more physical aspect to the Celtic attack but in the 73rd minute, after Cerny blocked Griffiths' drive with his legs, the substitute scuffed the rebound wide to the jeers of the Jags fans behind the goal.

The tempo dipped in the final stages but Mackay-Steven and Kazim-Richards missed the targets with efforts before the over-worked Cerny saved a lazy shot from Bitton.

Six minutes from the end Thistle were handed a lifeline when Sviatchenko tugged at Steven Lawless in the box and after referee Stephen Finnie pointed to the spot, Welsh drove in the penalty to set up a fraught ending but the Hoops held firm for a well-deserved win.

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