Celtic take a three-point lead after cruising to victory over Hamilton
Kilmarnock’s 0-0 draw with Aberdeen gives Brendan Rodgers’ side breathing room
Celtic’s Ryan Christie scores his side’s second goal during the Scottish Premiership match against Hamilton at Celtic Park. Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Celtic 3 Hamilton Academical 0
Celtic stretched their lead at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership with a 3-0 win over struggling Hamilton at Parkhead.
Accies’ 22-year-old goalkeeper Ryan Fulton had kept the dominant home side at bay with several good saves before he let a long-distance drive from midfielder Callumn McGregor slip through his legs with five minutes of the first-half remaining.
The keeper was at fault again with a fumble which allowed Ryan Christie to score a second in the 76th minute, another present to Hoops manager Brendan Rodgers, celebrating his 46th birthday, with Scott Sinclair heading in a late third.
Celtic, who made it 11 home league wins out of 11, moved three points clear of Kilmarnock with their game in hand against St Johnstone in midweek and they are looking strong since adding in the January transfer window.
Striker Timothy Weah, who had scored in each of his first two appearance for Celtic since arriving from on loan from Paris St Germain, made his first start as replacement for West Brom loanee Oliver Burke, with Mikey Johnston replacing James Forrest on the wing.
Accies showed three changes with Scott Martin, Lenny Sowah and Steven Boyd in for Mikel Miller, Alex Gogic and Steven Davies but Canning’s defence creaked under inevitable Celtic pressure.
Fulton, playing only his second league game of the season, made early saves from McGregor and Sinclair before brilliantly tipping another effort from the latter over the bar for a corner which was defended.
The home side kept playing and Accies kept chasing.
Fulton made further saves from left-back Emilio Izaguirre, Johnston and midfielder Christie.
Hamilton, indeed, looked to have had bedded themselves in but in the 26th minute Martin’s under-hit pass back to Fulton left Weah with only the keeper to beat but his unconvincing shot was blocked to safety.
However, all Fulton’s good work was undone in the 40th minute when he allowed McGregor’s low drive from 25 yards slip between his legs to give Celtic the breakthrough.
Accies, stung by the goal, had a go before the break and attacker Tony Andreu’s shot from inside the box escaped Celtic keeper Scott Bain’s right-hand post.
The home side again did all the pressing after the break with Hamilton harrying and harassing.
Just after the hour mark Rodgers brought on Forrest and Burke for Johnston and Weah and the tempo immediately increased.
In the 70th minute Fulton raced out from his goal to spectacularly miss the ball with an attempted header leaving Burke to go towards goal but his drive was blocked as the Hamilton defence scurried back.
Three minutes later Accies had a great chance when Boyd got through on goal with only Bain to beat but before he could pull the trigger he was tackled by Hoops defender Kristoffer Ajer for a corner which came to nothing. That ended hopes of a comeback.
Fulton was involved again for Celtic’s second goal when he fumbled McGregor’s shot allowing Christie to knock the ball in from close range.
There was more to come.
With three minutes remaining and Accies ragged, Sinclair nodded in Mikael Lustig’s cross from close range, putting a better sheen on the scoreline.
Meanwhile, Aberdeen could have climbed above Kilmarnock with a win at Pittodrie — but the teams failed to produce a goal between them, meaning Steve Clarke’s men maintain second place.
The visitors played the last eight minutes with 10 men after substitute Kris Boyd was dismissed for a reckless challenge on Graeme Shinnie.
Hearts climbed above St Johnstone and into fifth place, the Tynecastle contest finishing in a 2-0 home victory.
Marcus Godinho opened the scoring in the 52nd minute and substitute Callum Morrison wrapped up the win in the last minute.
Motherwell’s revival continued with a 1-0 win over Dundee at Dens Park.
The decisive moment came on the hour, when David Turnbull sent goalkeeper Seny Dieng the wrong way from the penalty spot after Ryan Inniss had been penalised for tripping substitute Elliott Frear.
It gave Steve Robinson’s team a third successive win, lifting them further clear of the danger zone.