CELTIC players are now back in a club mind-set following the International break. All four Celts on Scotland duty will have returned brimming with confidence at their own performances in the dark blue.
Wins away in Cyprus by two goals to one and on Tuesday night by three goals to one at home to Kazakhstan will have confidence lifted after a dire qualifying campaign for Scotland. With Steve Clarke’s side now on a run of three straight wins it’s a perfect boost ahead of the Nations League play-off that will afford Scotland the opportunity to sneak through the back door into The Euros.
Gregg Taylor, Ryan Christie Callum McGregor and James Forrest all return with their heads held high and in all likelihood their shirts earned for those play off matches in March.
This weekend Celtic return to action against Livingston at Celtic Park on Saturday. This time last year on 24 November 2018, Celtic’s Scotland contingent returned from the International fold and made the short trip to New Douglas Park to face Hamilton on that plastic pitch.
James Forrest was the returning Scotland hero with five goals in the wins over Albania and Israel, while team-mates Callum McGregor and Christie had also impressed on international duty.
In a professional 3-0 win, a brilliantly worked training ground corner saw the opening goal in this encounter after 13 minutes.
McGregor rolled a low corner into the feet of Odsonne Edouard, who returned it into the advancing midfielder’s path with a classy back heel. McGregor then had time to pick out Christie, who slammed a rising shot high into the net for his fourth goal in as many games. A wonderful goal to get Celtic started.
Prior to the breakthrough, Accies were fortunate not to concede a penalty when Matt Kilgallon slipped while closing down Edouard in the box, blocking the striker’s cross with his fully outstretched arm. It was a save any goalkeeper would have been proud of but the fact it was missed by the officials wouldn’t be a sign of bias it could only be added to the ever increasing ‘Honest Mistakes’ video library.
Hamilton had decided defence was the best form of attack in this one and had a self-preservation look to their line-up. Five defenders were permanently parked deep in their half hoping to stifle Celtic. Even that early goal didn’t change their outlook. Damage limitation appeared to be the objective. Celtic played around them looking for gaps and under no real pressure.
Scotty Sinclair might have doubled Celtic’s lead before half time when he ran on to Olivier Ntcham’s lofted pass, but Gary Woods in the Hamilton goal had little difficulty with what was in truth a rather tame effort. Other than that it was a rather pedestrian first half that ended with Celtic going in 1-0 up at the break.
Hamilton came out with a little more determination in the second half but there was no real conviction or belief in their play. Over the course of the game Accies didn’t even manage a shot on target. Happy enough to try and keep the score down and Celtic looked content not to over exert themselves with the one goal lead knowing a second would kill the tie and energy could be preserved ahead of a European tie in midweek with Rosenborg.
The second goal arrived in the 67th minute with Scotty Sinclair meeting a Mikael Lustig cross with a downward header, and when Scott Martin flicked out a leg to block he could only send the ball into the far corner of the net.
Then came the goal that officially killed a ‘contest’ that in truth had been over when the first goal was scored, given Hamilton’s negative outlook even after conceding.
With Leigh Griffiths returning to the fold in yesterday’s friendly win over Stenhousemuir with a couple of goals, it may well point to some symmetry with how he re-appeared in a Celtic shirt last year.
With 15 minutes remaining in this one, Griffiths playing for Celtic for the first time since 7 October 2018, made an immediate impact as his fine thumping free kick from the edge of the penalty area flew past Woods in the Hamilton goal.
You wouldn’t put a wee cameo and goal from the bench past Super Leigh Griffiths this weekend against Livingston would you?
Celtic extended their unbeaten Premiership run to seven games with this comfortable win at Hamilton. The Champions went two points clear at the top. Brendan Rodgers had his say on a very professional Celtic performance:
“Off the back of the international break you want to come back and get the points on the board as quickly as you can
“We had to generate the rhythm and intensity in our own game. I thought we did that really well, the passing was really crisp, and we could’ve been up by about three at half-time.
“We had trust in our position, and trust in our possession and our ability to get there. We’ve got our rhythm back, that’s for sure, over this last period.
“The confidence players have gained from playing well, being creative, scoring goals, that performance looked like the first year I was here. The players came in, they really controlled the game, and they had that personality in the team to be aggressive.”
Celtic lined up on the day: Craig Gordon, Mikael Lustig, Dedryck Boyata, Filip Benkovic, Kieran Tierney, Callum McGregor, Olivier Ntcham, Ryan Christie, James Forrest, Scott Sinclair, Odsonne Edouard.
You can read The Celtic Star’s match report on Celtic’s 3-0 win here.
And Celtic Star Columnist and historian let his feelings on the match be known with one eye on Celtic’s upcoming trip to Norway on European business.
As Celtic head back to league action against Livingston on Saturday hoping to avenge a defeat at the Tony Macaroni last time the sides met, it’s fair to say a repeat of the result against Hamilton last year would do just fine.
You can see the match highlights of Celtic 3-0 win here. Let’s hope Leigh Griffiths can make the match day squad and have an impact from the bench at least. Welcome back Leigh.
— Celtic Football Club (@CelticFC) November 20, 2019