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Celtic 1 Accies 0

Web reporter Martin McConnell files from Parkhead

Ladbrokes Premiership
Celtic Park, Glasgow
Tuesday 13th December 2016 at 7.45pm.
Celtic 1 Hamilton Academical 0

We didn’t manage to take any points away with us from Celtic Park, but  did come away with  heads held high after making it a frustrating 90 minutes for the Scottish champions. And for all their possession, Celtic were kept to only 2 shots on target by the Accies defence, exactly the same amount that Craig Gordon dealt with in the Celtic goal.

At times in the first twenty minutes or so  it seemed like Hamilton were chasing shadows, as the Celtic players moved into gaps like fighter planes jockeying for position during a dog fight. But Accies did more than enough to blunt the edge of the champions attack until Leigh Griffiths managed put his side ahead on 35 minutes.

The second half was positively sedate by comparison, with Celtic taking their time, passing across the back and down the wings in an attempt to penetrate the Hamilton defence, without success. Accies did see more of the ball and broke forward on occasion, the best of which came with precious little time left on the clock when Eamonn Brophy shot just wide of goal.

A pleased Martin Canning said, “I thought the boys were excellent and their work rate was of a different class, and they did everything I’d asked them to do. I thought their shape was very good and they were disciplined as you need to be able to concentrate for ninety minutes, which I thought they did. And we hoped to stay in the game long enough to make the last ten minutes uncomfortable for Celtic, and give ourselves a chance of taking something from the game.

“We were unfortunate I thought towards the end and put them under a bit of pressure, with a couple of wee half opportunities that might have nicked us something from it. Like I say it’s a difficult place to come and it would have been nice to get something from it, but to come here and perform in that way, the boys deserved something for their efforts.”

There were three changes to the Accies side that started at Celtic Park, with Massimo Donati, Danny Redmond and Rakish Bingham starting in place of Dan Seaborne (foot injury), Alex D’Acol and Louis Longridge. Celtic also made three changes, with Simunovic, McGregor and Dembele starting in place of Izaguirre, Gamboa and Mackay-Steven.

Accies got the game underway, and immediately a misplaced pass was sent out for a Celtic throw in. It was the last most Accies players saw of the ball for around 15 minutes, fortunately Celtic didn’t make the most of their early possession, then McGregor left the Accies defence trailing in his wake until Greg Docherty made a brilliant last gasp tackle inside the six yard box.

After 14 minutes Hamilton had just about strung together a few passes on a couple of occasions, but didn’t seem put out by the amount of chasing that Celtic forced them into. Then Greg Docherty was able to make a run down the right hand side and let loose with a low shot from wide, Craig Gordon had no bother getting down to smother the danger.

After 20 minutes, Celtic still enjoyed the lion’s share of the possession, but the pace of attack slackened and Accies began to see more of the ball and began to work the Celtic defence for the first time. Ali Crawford almost found Grant Gillespie with a ball splitting the Celtic defence, and a Massimo Donati header from a corner kick was saved by Gordon.

Jozo Simunovic headed just over the Accies cross bar from a Roberts cut back, then Celtic took the lead within the minute when Rogic found Dembele clear and the French striker unselfishly laid on for Griffiths to drill past Woods. With minutes of the half left, Griffiths sent a shot wide of the back post, and Dembele headed over from a Griffiths cross.

Celtic as expected started the second half on the front foot, but it was Hamilton that threatened first when Danny Redmond, who had a great game making his first start of the season, won a challenge in the centre of the park, then fed Ali Crawford to unleash on goal from 25 yards without too much trouble for Gordon. In the Hamilton penalty area, Griffiths sent a shot sailing over the cross bar from ten yards out.

Celtic were far less direct in going forward, as they worked the ball around the field in an attempt to make a break through, but as soon as they crossed the 18 yard line, they seemed to hit a brick wall. Armstrong shot a foot wide of goal, Sviatchenko sent a 30 yarder sailing high, Woods saved at the feet of Dembele then saved again when he struck from 15 yards.

Roberts caused all sorts of havoc out on the right, and after sprinting down the wing, sent a magnificent ball across goal for Mackay-Steven lurking at the back post. The midfielder was just a tad slow in getting there, as any sort of touch would have put them two in front. Tom Rogic had a final half chance but sent his 25 yard strike wide of goal.

Then with just four minutes of time left, Hamilton had a great chance to equalise when Ali Crawford’s pressing caused Sviatchenko to misdirect a pass back straight to the feet of Eamonn Brophy. The Accies striker bore down on Gordon and scuffed his shot across goal and inches wide, when the better option in hindsight would have been to give back to Crawford. Accies certainly finished the stronger.

Celtic: Gordon, Lustig, Sviatchenko, Simunovic, Brown, Roberts, Rogic, Armstrong, McGregor (Mackay-Steven 58 ), Griffiths, Dembele (Bitton 83). Subs Unused: de Vries, Toure, Izaguirre, Gamboa, Christie.
Goals: Griffiths 35.
Cautions: Sviatchenko.

Accies: Woods, Gillespie, Imrie, Docherty, Redmond (Longridge 79), Crawford (Cunningham 88 ), Bingham (Brophy 75), MacKinnon, McMann, Donati (c), Sarris. Subs Unused: D’Acol, McGregor, Hughes, Thomson.
Cautions: Donati, Gillespie.

Referee: Crawford Allan. Assistants: Graeme Leslie & Ralph Gordon. 4th Official: Craig Charleston.
Attendance: 55,076.

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