We went down 2-0 to league champions Celtic at Celtic Park on Saturday afternoon (25th February).
A double from Mouusa Dembele, one right on half time, and a penalty 14 minutes into the second half, were enough to see the home side record their 21st consecutive league win this season.
Greg Docherty made his comeback from injury after 10 weeks out with a broken metatarsal, coming on for Steven Boyd on the hour.
We restricted them to just three shots on target in the 90, while Craig Gordon pulled off a fine save from Eamonn Brophy in the closing stages.
Web reporter Martin McConnell gives us his take on the game…
Celtic Park, Glasgow
Saturday 25th February 2017 at 3pm.
Celtic 2 Hamilton Academical 0
A Moussa Dembele strike either side of the half time break was enough to send Accies home with nothing to show for yet another fine defensive performance at Celtic Park. Even before a ball had been kicked, Hamilton knew that they had slipped to bottom place after Caley Thistle had beaten Rangers the night before in Inverness.
Although they didn’t see too much of the ball, Hamilton’s defence proved disciplined, dogged and determined. Yet for all Celtic’s overwhelming possession, the champions chances on goal proved to be few and far between. Armstrong struck the cross bar, then the fantastic Dembele goal being all they had to show for their 45 minutes of graft.
The second half was much the same. Celtic excelled at denying Hamilton space and time on the ball whilst Accies defended well in and around their penalty area, even if it looked a little scrappy and desperate at times. But all the same, Dembele managed to snatch a second from the penalty spot after Keiran Tierney was clumsily challenged inside the penalty area.
Hamilton started with two changes to the side that faced Partick Thistle at Firhill, with Grant Gillespie and Steven Boyd replacing Craig Watson and Eamonn Brophy. Whilst hosts Celtic made three changes to the XI that beat Motherwell 2-0, Gamboa, Armstrong and Sviatchenko replacing Henderson, Simunovic and Lustig.
Hamilton boss Martin Canning said of his sides performance, “The plan was the same as last time we came here, and that was to try and frustrate Celtic and make it hard for them to break us down. And again, try and give ourselves a chance in the last twenty minutes or so to really go for it and take something from the game.
“I think when you come here, if you try to win the game from the first minute, you’re probably going to lose. I think you’ve got to remain tight and well organised and make it difficult, and give yourself a chance later in the game. I thought we did that up until the goal which was fantastic from their point of view, when he’d turned Massimo and stuck it in the top corner.
“I don’t think they created much else apart from when Armstrong came across and struck the bar. But I thought our work rate in the first half in particular was excellent, second half I said let’s try and stay in the game and give ourselves an opportunity. But we conceded the penalty and that changes the game for me as a manager.
“You’re thinking do we go now and try and get back in the game and risk losing three, four, five and not getting back into the game after putting two up front. Given how tight things are, goal difference may come into the reckoning at some point, but I’m pleased. The attitude of the players was good and they stayed disciplined, which were both pleasing aspects.”
Accies didn’t see a great deal of the ball inside the first 15 minutes, they did manage to get bodies forward at times but Celtic were sharp and quick to steal it back. Keiran Tierney was proving to be a thorn in Accies side with his powerful runs down the left hand side, but they did enough to take the sting out of his attacks before any threat materialised.
Tierney had the first attempt on goal just before the 20 minute mark, but did no harm when he struck low, hard, and a few yards wide of the Hamilton goal. Sinclair followed with a shot from distance that sailed harmlessly over the bar. Imrie didn’t fare much better when he struck wide from the edge of the box, after MacKinnon robbed Sviatchenko in the centre of the park.
Then just after the half hour Celtic struck the bar after Tierney sent a low cross skimming along the Hamilton goal mouth. Dembele ran in and failed to connect, but Armstrong mirrored that with a run in at the back post and shook the cross bar with a shot from close range. Within a couple of minutes he tried again, this time from distance and well off the target.
The defending in and around the Accies penalty area hadn’t been pretty but it had been effective and far more impressive than any recent outing. So it came as a surprise to see the ball sail in at the top corner of the net just before half time, when Dembele turned, beat his marker to create some space, then unleash from 25 yards out.
Three minutes into the second spell and Accies were first to strike after MacKinnon robbed Dembele in the Hamilton half before playing wide to Steven Boyd. The young striker looked up and spotted Bingham making a run through the centre, floated a perfectly weighted ball over Sviatchenko and straight to Rakish Bingham who then sent wide of goal.
Again, although not setting the heather alight, Accies second half performance was workmanlike, disciplined and getting the job done until a lapse in concentration caused Massimo Donati to upend Kieran Tierney inside the penalty area. The referee wasted no time in pointing to the penalty spot, up stepped Dembele to slot home for his second of the day.
Celtic never let up in an attempt to find that third goal, and substitute Gary Mackay-Steven went closest with a low driven shot that was comfortably saved by Gary Woods, his first of the day. Then with only seconds left, Craig Gordon made his first save of the day when he was forced into tipping the ball over his cross bar from an Eamonn Brophy header.
Celtic: Gordon, Bitton, Brown, Dembele (Griffiths 72), Sinclair, Gamboa, Armstrong (McGregor 85), Boyata, Sviatchenko, Forrest (Mackay-Steven 9), Tierney. Subs Unused: de Vries, Toure, Izaguirre, Henderson.
Goals: Dembele 44, 59 pen.
Accies: Woods, Skondras, Devlin (c), Gillespie, Imrie, Redmond (Kurtaj 68 ), Bingham (Brophy 75), MacKinnon, Donati, McMann, S Boyd (Docherty 63). Subs Unused: Matthews, Seaborne, Watson, Adams.
Cautions: Devlin, Donati, Kurtaj, Skondras.
Referee: Crawford Allan. Assistants: Stuart Stevenson & Graeme Crawford. 4th Official: Craig Napier.