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Celtic huff and puff past Accies to extend unbeaten run

Celtic 3-1 Hamilton

By Ronnie Esplin

Celtic extended their unbeaten domestic run to 69 games with a 3-1 win over Hamilton at Parkhead but it was far from a vintage Hoops performance.

Midfielder Olivier Ntcham put the hosts ahead with a spectacular volley in the 12th minute before Accies' Danny Redmond produced a stunning equaliser just before the half-hour mark.

That served only to irk the champions, and two goals in a minute just before the break from James Forrest and Scott Sinclair had Brendan Rodgers' men back in control of the Premiership encounter.

However, the home side laboured after the break and allowed Martin Canning's visitors a few chances on the counter-attack before the final whistle confirmed a victory which kept them five points clear of Rangers and Aberdeen with a game in hand.

Nir Bitton, brought back in at centre-back for the hosts, tested Gary Woods with a 35-yard drive in the second minute, the Accies keeper grateful to parry to safety before midfielders Stuart Armstrong and Ntcham went close with efforts from distance.

The Frenchman was more accurate when Sinclair lifted the ball to the back post where the 21-year-old lashed a right-footed volley high past Woods for his fifth goal of the season.

A terrific last-gasp tackle by Bitton on Redmond stopped the Accies player bursting into the Hoops penalty area, while at the other end Woods threw himself to his left to save a 25-yard drive from Ntcham.

The home fans were silenced in the 29th minute when the Lanarkshire side levelled.

Darian MacKinnon took a return pass from captain Dougie Imrie and rolled the ball along the 18-yard box where Redmond hit high past Craig Gordon.

It took a while for Celtic to respond, but respond they did.

Striker Odsonne Edouard headed an Armstrong corner over the bar before Celtic restored their lead in the 40th minute, winger Forrest taking an Armstrong pass before rounding Woods and finding the net.

Barely a minute later, with the visitors reeling, Forrest played the ball across the penalty area to Sinclair and from 16 yards he delightfully curled the ball past the helpless Accies keeper for number three.

Woods thwarted Edouard twice as Celtic threatened in the early stages of the second half, while the valiant visitors pushed forward as often as they could.

Rodgers brought on Leigh Griffiths for Edouard in the 68th minute to boost the Hoops' bid for a fourth goal.

Moments later, however, some nifty footwork from Accies midfielder Greg Docherty saw him escape home defender Dedryck Boyata down the right, but his terrific cross was knocked wide by striker Rakish Bingham.

Docherty fired wide in another break moments later before Bingham beat Gordon with a low drive only to see it come back off the post, and thereafter the Hoops continued to huff and puff around the Hamilton box but found no more joy.

CELTIC: Gordon, Ajer, Boyata (Simunovic 73), Bitton, Forrest (Hayes 80), Ntcham, Brown, Armstrong, McGregor, Edouard (Griffiths 68), Sinclair.

Subs not used: Dembele, Lustig, De Vries, Tierney.

HAMILTON: Woods, Gogic, Tomas, McMann, Gillespie (Skondras 50), MacKinnon, Donati, Docherty, Imrie, Redmond (Lyon 79), Bingham (Cunningham 84).

Subs not used: Fulton, Templeton, Ferguson, Sarris.

Man of the match: Sinclair

Match rating: 7/10

Referee: Stephen Finnie

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