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Rodgers full of praise for hot Celtic's mentality

By Ronnie Esplin

Stuart Armstrong grabbed a double as relentless Celtic moved 11 points clear at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership with a comfortable 4-1 win over Partick Thistle at Firhill.

The former Dundee United midfielder opened the scoring in the 39th minute to give an otherwise dull first half a notable end.

The champions came out flying at the start of the second half and notched two goals in a minute from Armstrong and returning striker Leigh Griffiths and although Jags defender Liam Lindsay reduced the deficit with a header just after the hour mark, Hoops substitute Callum McGregor restored the cushion for Brendan Rodgers' side who still have two games in hand over second-placed Rangers.

Ulsterman Rodgers said: "I don't think Partick have conceded more than two goals in a game this season. On the back of Tuesday night away to Manchester City with only two days recovery, to come here and play to that level was exceptional.

"You give Partick credit, they made it really difficult, but the mentality in the team is very strong. I can see the development, the relationship between training and the game, they are taking on board the concepts of our build-up play and consolidating the game and then we've obviously got goals in the team.

"We're staying very composed and calm under pressure and that's a really good sign."

Thistle looked solid enough defensively in the early stages although in the 23rd minute keeper Tomas Cerny had to make a fine save from Griffiths' low drive after winger Patrick Roberts had set him up with a cut-back.

Moments later, the Scotland ace drove wide from 25 yards.

The Maryhill men were even less potent. Chris Erskine's angled drive from 16 yards in the 33rd minute flashed past Craig Gordon's far post with no real chance of beating the Celtic keeper before Cerny had to race out to thwart Griffiths.

However, it was Griffiths who became provider in the 39th minute when he got past right-back Ziggy Gordon and drove the ball across the six-yard box and past Cerny for onrushing midfielder Armstrong to slam in his fifth of the season.

Armstrong's second, four minutes after the restart, was a finish of real quality as he accepted a free-kick from Griffiths before curling a left-footed shot from 25 yards past Cerny.

The visiting fans were still celebrating when Griffiths took a pass from Rogic and rolled Thistle defender Adam Barton with some ease before lifting his shot high into the net.

When Lindsay, making his 50th appearance for Thistle, looped a header from a Sean Welsh free-kick over Gordon and in, a comeback was in the air and the Celtic fans in the 7,609 crowd were relieved soon after when Welsh's header from a Callum Booth free-kick which found the net was ruled offside.

As the Parkhead side reasserted themselves, Roberts fired over from close range, Cerny made a great save from Griffiths' close-range drive and Lindsay blocked a drive from Moussa Dembele, on for Roberts, for a corner which came to nothing.

In the 81st minute, left-back Emilio Izaguirre reached the bye-line before setting his cross up for McGregor, on for Rogic, to volley in number four and keep Celtic unbeaten in the league and on their way to a sixth successive title.

Belfast Telegraph


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