Thursday 23 November 2017

Bhoys dispatch Hamilton to move clear at the top

Celtic 4 Hamilton 0

John Guidetti celebrates scoring Celtic's third goal against Hamilton.
John Guidetti celebrates scoring Celtic's third goal against Hamilton.

Ronnie Esplin

Celtic eased three points clear of Aberdeen at the top of the Scottish Premiership after eventually overcoming Hamilton in a 4-0 win at a rain-soaked Parkhead.

Accies captain Michael McGovern, a former Celt, held the home side at bay in the first-half but he was powerless as the champions stepped up the pace after the break.

The returning Kris Commons opened the scoring in the 56th minute and after goals from midfielder Stefan Johansen and striker John Guidetti, the former Nottingham Forest midfielder helped himself to a second which gave the scoreline an appropriate reflection of a one-sided match.

The Hoops have a game in hand over the Dons, whom they host next Sunday in a match which will surely be more even encounter than the one against Accies, who have yet to win in eight games under player/manager Martin Canning since he took over from Alex Neil who departed for Norwich last month.

Before the visit of the Pittodrie men Celtic face Inter Milan in the second-leg of the last-32 Europa League tie having fought out a thrilling 3-3 draw at Celtic Park on Thursday night and will go into that game with confidence.

As expected, with one eye on the trip to Milan, Ronny Deila utilised his squad.

Commons, recovered from a hamstring injury, Guidetti, defender Efe Ambrose, Guidetti and winger James Forrest were all handed a start with Adam Matthews, Stuart Armstrong, Gary Mackay-Steven and Leigh Griffiths dropping to the bench.

New Hamilton signing Nigel Hasselbaink made his second debut for the Lanarkshire club as forward Dougie Imrie returned from suspension with Michael Devlin coming back to play a pivotal role in the Accies defence which was under the cosh for most of the first-half.

Hamilton might have been wearing the black and blue kit associated with Inter Milan - although not worn by the Serie A side on Thursday night - but there was no European feel to the match which began amid general silence as the rain cascaded relentlessly.

Slowly Deila's side, however, began to build pressure.

In the eighth minute Hoops midfielder Nir Bitton got his head to an inswinging Commons free-kick, forcing a fine point-blank parry from McGovern on his goal-line.

Four minutes later McGovern made another fine save close-range, this time from Forrest who volleyed in a deep cross from Ambrose, the Lanarkshire defence scrambling the loose ball clear.

As the home side dominated, Devlin's block inside the six-yard box denied Guidetti, although Celtic skipper Scott Brown had to come to the rescue when a slack back-heel by left-back Emilio Izaguirre almost allowed Hasselbaink a clear run in on goal.

Celtic keeper Craig Gordon, all but redundant, might have enjoyed some action but his team-mates were camped in Hamilton's half of the park.

McGovern made another save from a Virgil van Dijk header, a mis-hit Guidetti strike and a long-range effort by Johansen before the break the home side had lost some impetus.

For the start of the second-half, Matthews came on for Jason Denayer, with Ambrose moving in beside van Dijk, while for Accies, Louis Longridge replaced Ziggy Gordon with Grant Gillespie moving to right-back, although he lasted only 10 minutes before hobbled off to be replaced by Darren Lyon.

As the New Douglas Park side adjusted again, Celtic got the breakthrough.

Van Dijk took it upon himself to surge forward through the middle towards the Accies box before picking out Commons who steadied himself before driving low past McGovern.

Moments later, Armstrong replaced Forrest just before the hour mark as the home side, free from the stress of finding an opener, went forward with confidence.

Johansen drove a shot off the base of the post after being set up by Bitton, before grabbing Celtic's second.

The Norwegian pounced on the loose ball to fire in after McGovern had parried a ferocious effort from van Dijk.

It was a case of how many the champions would score.

The over-worked McGovern made a double save from van Dijk and then Matthews, before Guidetti bulleted in an Izaguirre cross in the 77th minute with his head with Commons then grabbing his second from yards out in 81 minutes to confirm Celtic's superiority.

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