Saturday August 5th: Scottish Premiership; Celtic 4 (Griffiths 29’, 63’, Sinclair 51’, McGregor 7’) Hearts 1 (Goncalves 84’)
Celtic strolled to an opening day over Hearts as we begin our quest for Seven In A Row, highlighted by good performances from Ntcham, McGregor and Griffiths and some excellent goals.
Brendan Rodgers made a few changes from Wednesday’s win over Rosenborg, with Ntcham and Griffiths in for Hayes and Sviatchenko, Simunovic and Bitton continued their partnership at the back.
Before the game started, captain Scott Brown brought the premiership trophy onto the pitch then unfurled the league flag, a great honour for the player.
The first chance of the game fell to Nir Bitton, who Griffiths found with a corner but he was only able to put his free header into the side netting.
Celtic had plenty of possession and Griffiths came close on two occasions, firstly when his shot was saved by Hamilton, and secondly when a fine pass from Sinclair put him through on his goal, but unexpectedly his finish was poor and he blazed over.
The opening goal arrived in the 29th minute, and it was third time lucky for Griffiths. A great pass from Bitton put him clear, and he managed to elude the challenge of Hamilton and Grzelak to put the ball into the net, 1-0 to Celtic.
The second goal almost arrived on the stroke of half-time after some intricate passing play found McGregor, but his shot drifted just past the post.
The second half began with another McGregor shot, Hamilton saving his shot, and from the resulting corner Celtic doubled our lead, Hughes making a mess of a clearance with the ball falling to Sinclair who prodded the ball home from close range, 2-0 to Celtic.
Callum McGregor then began his war on the Hearts goal, his first effort from outside the box flying just wide of the post with his second saved into the air by Hamilton. It only delayed the inevitable though and the third goal arrived in the 63rd minute, some fine passing ending with Brown’s slide rule pass finding McGregor and his cross was headed home by Griffiths for his second goal of the game, 3-0 to Celtic and a great goal.
Ten minutes later it was 4-0, and a deserved goal for Callum McGregor. After Sinclair spun away from his man with some great skill his pass found McGregor who hammered the ball home from the edge of the box, 4-0 to Celtic.
Celtic began to slacken off a bit after this goal and the excursions of Rosenborg, and we allowed Hearts to score a consolation goal in the 84th minute, Goncalves holding off Simunovic and scoring with a shot from a tight angle which Gordon really should have done better with.
Despite giving away the goal, this was a good performance from Celtic, with Olivier Ntcham looking very neat and tidy on the ball, Leigh Griffiths looking back to his best already and a powerhouse man of the match performance from Callum McGregor, who is undroppable in this kind of form. Simunovic and Rogic did well to deal with the ‘threat’ of Kyle Lafferty, who was substituted before the was sent-off.
The games come thick and fast for Celtic, as we start our defence of the Betfred Cup at Celtic Park on Tuesday night against Kilmarnock, and I would expect Brendan Rodgers to make a few changes for that one.