Celtic restore four point gap

 

Hamilton 1 Celtic 2: A late winner from Paul Hartley allowed Celtic to snatch victory against Hamilton and restore their four-point lead at the top of the Scottish Premier League, but questions will once again be asked of match officials after a dubious penalty decision allowed Shunsuke Nakamura to cancel out Richard Offiong's opener for the home side.

The outcome means a comfortable cushion for Celtic following rivals Rangers' win at Ibrox yesterday but will be a crushing blow to an Accies side who remain rooted to the foot of the table.

Celtic carved out the first chance of the game when Cillian Sheridan's left-footed shot was blocked at the near post by goalkeeper Tomas Cerny.

Hamilton quickly created a decent chance of their own when James McArthur set up Offiong for a shot from the edge of the box which dipped just over the crossbar. The Scottish champions failed to heed the warning and the home side took a shock lead with 15 minutes gone.

Trent McClenahan was the provider as Offiong threw himself in front of the cross to send a diving header into the net.

Hamilton could have doubled their advantage when Brian Easton whipped a teasing corner into the packed goalmouth and Offiong rose to connect with a header a  few yards out which was tipped just over by Brown.

At the other end, Cerny was forced into a decent block when he turned a well-struck effort from Andreas Hinkel past the upright as Celtic pressed for an equaliser before the break.

They were back on level terms after 39 minutes when referee Steve Conroy pointed to the spot after Sheridan was fouled by Martin Canning, although the challenge appeared to take place just outside the box.

Canning was sent off and Nakamura stepped up to convert from 12 yards and haul Celtic back into the game.

Celtic then replaced by Barry Robson with Mark Wilson at the break.

They had a couple of half chances after the restart when Scott Brown screwed wide of the target and Stephen McManus' header was blocked at a corner.

Another corner saw Gary Caldwell connect with Hartley's inswinger only to nod just over.

Georgios Samaras was then thrown into the action in place of Nakamura with just over an hour gone, as Celtic chased a winner.

Samaras tried his luck with a flick in front of goal after being set up by Brown but his effort deflected into the arms of Cerny.

Paul Caddis replaced Massimo Donati and he started the move which resulted in Brown finding himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper but Cerny pulled off an excellent block to deny the Hoops midfielder from six yards.

With time running out, it was Accies who could have snatched the winner when Offiong embarked on a good run but let himself down with a poor final shot which did little to trouble Brown.

Cerny then produced a superb one-handed save to prevent a low header from Samaras crossing the line.

Just when Hamilton must have thought they were set to earn a share of the points, Hartley claimed the winner with a powerful half-volley from 16 yards with just four minutes to go.