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Rodgers hails 'big talent' Burke and confirms interest in Ukraine winger

Celtic 4-0 St Mirren

Happy Hoops: Scott Sinclair celebrates with team-mate Oliver Burke last night
Happy Hoops: Scott Sinclair celebrates with team-mate Oliver Burke last night

By Ronnie Esplin

Oliver Burke scored his first Celtic goals as the rampant Hoops opened up a one-point gap at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership with a 4-0 thrashing of struggling St Mirren at Parkhead.

The 21-year-old striker, on loan from West Brom, took 11 minutes of his first league start to head in a Ryan Christie free-kick and when winger Scott Sinclair scored the second with a penalty soon afterwards the points were all but assured.

Burke grabbed his second 10 minutes into the second half and substitute Timothy Weah, on loan from Paris St Germain, added a late fourth with his first league goal, leaving the sorry Saints bedraggled.

Kilmarnock's 2-1 win over Rangers at Rugby Park moved them above the Light Blues to one point behind Brendan Rodgers' side who are three ahead of the Ibrox men with a game in hand, while St Mirren dropped to the bottom of the table.

Rodgers described two-goal Oliver Burke as a "big talent, who needs guiding".

"He's here to help us and he's here to develop as a player," he said of the on-loan West Brom forward. "He's fitted in very well and he's still building relationships with his new team-mates."

Having already confirmed the club's interest in Ukrainian winger Maryan Shved, Rodgers adds: "We're always opened minded to bring in quality players. If we can do that, that's what we'll do."

On a freezing, wet evening in Glasgow, the contrast between struggling Saints and the reigning champions, who had Mikael Lustig and Kristoffer Ajer in for injured defensive duo Anthony Ralston and Dedryck Boyata, was stark. There was no surprise that the visitors were in defensive mode but it took Celtic just 11 minutes to get the breakthrough.

Burke got his head to Christie's free-kick six yards from goal and although Saints keeper Vaclav Hladky got his hand to the ball he could not prevent it reaching the back of the net.

And when St Mirren skipper Stephen McGinn pulled Sinclair down inside the box minutes later the winger drove the penalty into the corner of the net, making up for the one which was saved against Airdrie in the Scottish Cup win at the weekend and taking his tally to seven in six games.

Jim Kellerman came on to replace injured defender Lee Hodson but Saints continued to suffer.

Midfielder Callum McGregor missed a great chance by flashing a shot over the bar and Hladky saved a Lustig header just before the break as Celtic dominated possession with no prospect of a St Mirren comeback.

There was no let-up by Celtic after the break and the third goal came in the 55th minute after Hladky had made a fine double save, first from James Forrest, and then McGregor, only to see the handily-placed Burke fire the loose ball in from 14 yards.

Weah, the 18-year-old USA international, replaced Burke in the 64th minute and almost immediately struck the post before slipping the ball just past the post after a clever pass from Forrest.

Ewan Henderson, 18, younger brother of former Celt Liam Henderson, replaced Christie in the 71st and with three minutes left he played in Weah who steered past Hladky as the home side put down an impressive marker in their first league game of 2019.

Belfast Telegraph


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