New Douglas Park, Hamilton.
Friday 26th February 2016.
Hamilton Academical 1 Celtic 1
From a match that was difficult to watch for Accies fans, to a finale in which their side had the league champions under the cosh, this game had it all. The Celts opened the match in that swashbuckling style that they can play when at their best, but our defence held out. Fighting their way back into the match, luck wasn’t with them when Celtic were awarded and then scored a penalty kick.
Hamilton heads didn’t go down, and managed to compete with Celtic on level terms. Just before the half time break, Boyata saw red for a challenge on Morris. Griffiths had another attempt from the penalty spot but this time McGovern saved brilliantly. Then eventually from a corner kick, the ball broke for Eamonn Brophy and he hammered home beyond the reach of the Celtic keeper.
The match could have gone either way by the end. Hamilton dominated and created opportunities, but Celtic still had the ability to move the ball at pace from box to box, and in the end the result was about fair. Martin Canning made only one change to the side that started against Ross County, with Mikey Devlin starting in place of Jesus Garcia Tena.
With almost quarter of an hour played, things looked ominous for Hamilton. Celtic had Accies penned back deep inside their own half, the pressure unrelenting and memories of that infamous night at Celtic Park edging back inside minds. Never the less, despite the incredible amount of possession enjoyed by the visitors, it took a full 15 minutes before a chance was created.
And against all odds, it was Accies that created the first attempt on goal after Mikael Lustig brought down Gramoz Kurtaj just inside the Celtic half. Ali Crawford then sent the ball deep into the Celtic penalty area, Tagliapietra rose and headed toward goal but Bailly saved after coming off his line. Moments later Crawford shot inches over the Celtic goal after being played on by Carlton Morris.
After 25 minutes, Celtic continued to enjoy the lion’s share of possession. But Accies had a foot in the game now and looked more at ease with themselves. Defending deep, yet putting the Celtic defence under a little bit of pressure when chances arose. With 30 minutes played, league leaders Celtic still hadn’t managed a shot on target.
Then as Accies looked comfortable, Dougie Imrie made a challenge on Griffiths just inside the penalty area. Referee Craig Thomson pointed straight to the spot. Griffiths then converted to give Celtic the lead. Moments later we had a chance at the other end, when a long ball into the Celtic penalty area was met by Kurtaj, his shot being well blocked by Bailly.
Five minutes before the break, Dedryck Boyata was shown red for a challenge on Carlton Morris, six inches from the 18 yard line. Ali Crawford struck the free kick into the Celtic wall before the ball was cleared to safety. On the cusp of half time, Crawford almost levelled after receiving the ball 20 yards from goal. He switched the ball from one foot to the other, shot, and watched Bailly save again.
Half Time: Hamilton Academical 0 Celtic 1
Within minutes of the restart, Gary Mackay-Steven had a fantastic chance to put Celtic two goals to the good. When a ricochet from inside the Celtic half sailed 40 yards into the home penalty area, just perfect for the awaiting midfielder. With only the keeper to beat, Michael McGovern closed the gap, stood big and saved the 15 yard strike.
With an hour played, the match flowed from end to end, with each side failing to create that final killer ball. Then a cross from the Lyon out onthe right, found its way across to Kurakins out on the left. He shot low to the near post, Bailly turned the ball round the post and took a knock in the melee. From the corner, the ball was moved down the right for Griffiths to fire inches past the Hamilton goal.
Griffiths had another magnificent shot saved just as brilliantly by keeper McGovern, the rebound fell to Mackay-Steven who fired over from 20 yards. It seemed like curtains for Accies, when Celtic were awarded another penalty kick, after Ziggy Gordon was penalised for holding Mulgrew. Griffiths struck, but this time McGovern dived to his left, covered the ground and saved.
Accies finally pulled themselves level from an Imrie corner, and the main stand erupted into jubilant celebration. After some scrappy play inside the penalty area, the ball broke out toward substitute Eamonn Brophy. He wasted no time and buried the ball straight into the top right hand corner of the Celtic goal from 12 yards.
As the match entered the last 15 minutes, both sets of fans sensed the match was on a knife edge and could swing either way. A Crawford cross was met by the foot of Greg Docherty, the Accies midfielder wasn’t expecting the ball but still managed to get it on target, but it was blocked and cleared. The boot was on the other foot now, and it was Hamilton that had Celtic penned in.
We created attack after attack in the closing stages, looking the most likely to win the match. Brophy had one final chance before the full time whistle but nothing came of it. It was a fabulous ending to a match that looked so one sided in the early stages, but by the end Hamilton were worth at least a point.
A jubilant Martin Canning said afterwards “I thought they were excellent. In the first 20 minutes Celtic probably dominated the ball, but they didn’t really create anything and that was something we knew we had to withstand in the first ten or 15 minutes. That was something we didn’t do well enough at Celtic Park when we played there, we did it much better tonight and actually had the best chance when Ali Crawford was clean through and dinked it over the bar. So from that point of view, the boys worked ever so hard and on another day we might have won it, or may have lost the game, a point was probably a fair result and we would have taken it before the game.
“We knew that was a bad night for us and we never gave ourselves a chance, Celtic started really quickly once again in the first ten or 15 minutes, by that time at Parkhead we were 3-0 down and you give yourself no chance in the game. I think today we knew that we had to see that part out and we did that well, and for the possession that they had we were pretty comfortable and had a good chance ourselves with Ali.
“Obviously we conceded the penalty and go in 1-0 down at halftime, which I thought was harsh. Then in the second half Michael makes a great save at the penalty and if that had gone in, I think the game would have been over. The fact that he makes the save and we stay in it, Eamonn then gets his goal which was another great finish for him. From there we get one or two wee half chances and could have nicked it.”
Accies: McGovern, Gordon, Kurakins, Devlin, Imrie, Crawford, Kurtaj (Docherty 79), Morris (Diaby 90+1), MacKinnon, Lyon (Brophy 69), Tagliapietra. Subs Unused: Martin, Gillespie, D’Acol, Mandiangu.
Goals: Brophy 73.
Cautions: Gordon, Tagliapietra, MacKinnon.
Celtic: Bailly, Brown, Griffiths, Commons (Mulgrew 43), Mackay-Steven (Christie 73), Allan (Kazim-Richards 85), Boyata, Lustig, Johansen, Sviatchenko, Tierney. Subs Unused: Gordon, Armstrong, Roberts, McGregor.
Goals: Griffiths 34 penalty.
Cards: Boyata red.
Referee: Craig Thomson. Assistants: Andy McWilliam & Ralph Gordon. 4th Official: Crawford Allan.