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Van the man boosts Bhoys as they edge past Thistle


Celtic's Virgil Van Dijk celebrates his goal against Partick Thistle

Celtic's Virgil Van Dijk celebrates his goal against Partick Thistle

Celtic's Virgil Van Dijk celebrates his goal against Partick Thistle

Celtic beat Partick Thistle 1-0 to move three points clear of Inverness Caley Thistle at the top of the SPFL but it was a far from champion performance from Ronny Deila's side.

It took a goal from defender Virgil van Dijk just before the hour mark to break down the Partick defence with the Hoops unable to turn on the style that blew Hearts out of the Scottish Cup at Tynecastle on Sunday.

Van Dijk also scored twice in that match with his goal touch only adding to his value with offers expected from Premier League sides when the transfer window opens next month.

There was a surprise start, and probably a demonstration of support, for Alexsandar Tonev in Deila's side with the Bulgarian appearing at Hampden today to appeal against a seven match suspension for racist abuse of Aberdeen's Shay Logan.

Tonev was joined in the starting XI by Charlie Mulgrew with James Forrest and Nir Bitton missing out although Bitton replaced Mulgrew at half-time.

There was barely 20,000 inside Celtic Park for the kick-off with the midweek scheduling putting off all but the most determined of long distance supporters including the still substantial Irish numbers.

It was a low key start to the match with the first chance falling to John Guidetti in the eighth minute with his header from a Stefan Johansen cross being pushed over the bar for a corner by Partick keeper Paul Gallacher.

Tonev and Virgil van Dijk tested Gallacher in quick succession with long range shots but the early breakthrough that the homeside were looking for proved elusive.

On the half hour mark Partick threatened for the first time when an in-swinging free kick from Stuart Brannigan was headed onto the top of the crossbar by Abdul Osman.

Five minutes from the interval Celtic really should have taken the lead when Guidetti took the ball around Gallacher just inside the penalty box but after Scott Brown fed the ball to Anthony Stokes but his rushed shot went the wrong side of the post as the first half finished goal-less.

Deila's half time shuffle of Bitton for Mulgrew added some spring to Celtic's midfield play but it was another impressive long range pass from van Dijk that sent Tonev through on goal in the 48th minute but the on-loan winger from Aston Villa rushed his shot into the side netting.

After seeing his best assists come to nothing van Dijk took matters into his own hands to break the deadlock in the 59th minute. The Dutchman took one touch to control a free-kick from Brown then smashed an unstoppable shot past Gallacher from 10 yards out.

With 18 minutes left to play Deila brought on Kris Commons and Stefan Scepovic in place of Tonev and Guidetti but the fresh faces were unable to add the missing sparkle to Celtic's play although news of Rangers throwing away a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 at Alloa in the Petrofac Training Cup kept the home supporters amused through to the final whistle.

On Saturday Deila will be looking for a vast improvement when Celtic travel to Motherwell looking for their seventh consecutive win.