Saturday 20 July 2019

Sinclair's hat-trick gives Celtic timely boost for Valencia

Celtic 5  St. Johnstone 0

Celtic's James Forrest scores his side's third goal of the game. Photo: Jeff Holmes/PA Wire
Celtic's James Forrest scores his side's third goal of the game. Photo: Jeff Holmes/PA Wire

Jamie Holland

Brendan Rodgers reckons Celtic's thumping Scottish Cup victory over St Johnstone at Parkhead yesterday sets them up nicely for the visit of Valencia on Thursday.

Winger Scott Sinclair helped himself to a hat-trick and skipper Scott Brown and winger James Forrest also scored in what was Celtic's fifth win of the season against Tommy Wright's side.

Celtic's Jeremy Toljan (left) and St Johnstone Matthew Kennedy (right) battle for the ball. Photo: Jeff Holmes/PA Wire
Celtic's Jeremy Toljan (left) and St Johnstone Matthew Kennedy (right) battle for the ball. Photo: Jeff Holmes/PA Wire

Celtic have now won seven matches out of seven since the turn of the year, scoring 21 goals and conceding none and Rodgers believes his side are in good shape ahead of the first leg of their Europa League tie against the Spanish side.

He said: "It is another good performance, really focused, not giving away too much.

"We know it is a big step up for us on Thursday in terms of quality but I can't complain.

"We are into the middle of February and we haven't conceded a goal, working very hard, players looking fresh and playing at a really good level.

Celtic's Scott Sinclair scores his side's fifth goal. Photo: Jeff Holmes/PA Wire
Celtic's Scott Sinclair scores his side's fifth goal. Photo: Jeff Holmes/PA Wire

"So it was good preparation. We bring big confidence into the game. We understand the level of opponent.

"We are so excited for the game, it is a great game for us, the first leg of a European tie and we will be ready for it."

It was a record 24th straight victory in domestic cup ties and the Northern Irishman said: "I didn't want to mention it before, there is enough demand from me on them to perform well and win. But the consequence of it is they break a record, another great tribute to how well they have been working for two-and-a-half years."

The former Liverpool boss praised Sinclair after the winger took his tally to 16 for the season.

Celtic's Scott Brown celebrates. Photo: Jeff Holmes/PA Wire
Celtic's Scott Brown celebrates. Photo: Jeff Holmes/PA Wire

He said: "It is what he does, he is a goalscorer even though he plays off the side.

"The first goal was a great finish and then he is probably one of the few players who could keep up with Olly Burke to get in the box when he squares it. The third goal was a wonderful piece of skill and finish."

French midfielder Olivier Ntcham returned from a hamstring injury to take his place on the bench but had to be withdrawn before the game with his place taken by Mikey Johnston.

Tightness Rodgers said: "He felt a tightness in his hamstring in the warm-up. It didn't go but he felt it was too much of a risk. We will probably scan that tomorrow to make sure."

Celtic's Scott Sinclair celebrates. Photo: Jeff Holmes/PA Wire
Celtic's Scott Sinclair celebrates. Photo: Jeff Holmes/PA Wire

Defender Jozo Simunovic came off at half-time due to illness and Burke hobbled off with an ankle knock but both should be okay for Thursday.

Celtic had beaten St Johnstone 2-0 both home and away in the Premiership before their midweek win over Hibernian and it left the Perth side with five successive defeats.

Saints boss Wright conceded his side were simply "beaten by a far better side."

He said: "Effectively we lost the tie in first nine minutes with two goals. They have so much quality. There is no disgrace getting beaten by a team who are at the moment wiping the floor with everybody. We need to accept that and move on."

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