Substitute Leigh Griffiths came off the bench to help Celtic comeback in the second-half against Partick Thistle to see Brendan Rodgers’ side extend their lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership.
Celtic started off on the front-foot and it was Dedryck Boyata who had the first shot of the evening. The Belgian looped an effort over the bar at the far post after the ball landed at the defender’s feet following a corner.
Kieran Tierney then forced Tomas Cerny into action but the Czech shot-stopper was up to task as he kept the full-back at bay. Oliver Ntcham and then Callum McGregor saw efforts blocked as the current Champions remained in control as the half approached the midway point.
Ntcham had another go, this time fizzing a shot inches wide of the post before Thistle finally kicked into gear. A counter-attacking break forward saw Miles Storey collect the ball on the left; the forward cut inside onto his favoured right-foot before forcing Craig Gordon into a good save as the Scotland international conceded a corner.
Ntcham again and then Ryan Edwards at the other end had chances to score but both attempts went wide of target. Odsonne Edouard was next to try his luck but he was also stopped by Cerny before Tierney tried his hand from outside the area but this one went harmlessly over the crossbar.
Scott Sinclair saw a shot blocked before Partick sprung to the other end. Following a throw-in, Thistle attempted to find Storey on the left. It looked as though Mikael Lustig would cut the ball out but the Swede mis-controlled which allowed the pacey attacker in on goal. The full-back dragged the Jags number 39 to the ground, which left John Beaton with no choice but to point to the spot.
Conor Sammon stepped up and sent Gordon the wrong way as the hosts took the lead in front of their own supporters. Momentum remained with the Celts though as Rodgers’ side tried to find their way back into the match before the break.
McGregor was blocked out once more before Sinclair was denied by another good stop by Cerny to concede a corner. Edouard tried an ambitious effort from the left, inside the penalty area, but this one didn’t trouble the backline of the Maryhill men.
At the interval, Archibald’s side led despite rarely being in their opponents’ half. This forced Celtic to act swiftly as Lustig was brought off at the break, in a tactical switch which allowed Leigh Griffiths to enter the fray.
The Scotland international was quickly into the action as he saw a shot blocked but play spread to the other end as Blair Spittal was denied by Gordon in an exciting opening to the second period.
McGregor saw another effort snuffed out before Cerny denied Edouard to keep his side in-front. McGregor again couldn’t find a route to goal as another shot was well defended by Thistle before Griffiths was set free on goal.
The Partick defensive line had been caught out as the substitute closed in on goal: Cerny stood up tall and once again made an impressive save to deny the visitors in what looked like being the Jags’ evening.
Just a moment later and Firhill was silenced; Sinclair was taken out by Mustapha Dumbuya and another penalty was awarded by referee Beaton. Sinclair stood up to take himself and rolled the ball home to equalise for the Hoops.
Archibald made an immediate change to try and counteract that goal by bringing Adam Barton on for Spittal. Ntcham missed at one end while Sammon saw a header flash past the post at the other. Cerny then kept the scoreline level as he denied James Forrest as the game approached the hour mark.
Ntcham tried his luck another twice: one being blocked while the other went inches wide. Sandwiched in between those efforts was another save by the Partick number 1 to deny Griffiths putting Celtic in front.
Tierney was next to test the experienced keeper, who done well to get down low and tip the right-footed effort wide of the post for a corner. Only minutes later though and it was 2-1.
James Penrice had stormed forward to help out the Partick attack down the left but after the ball was won back, the Scottish Champions exploited the space vacated by the youngster. Scott Brown swung in a cross which the defence couldn’t clear – it eventually landed at the feet of Griffiths who remained calm and composed to slide the ball past Cerny and into the net despite the best efforts of Dumbuya on the line.
Another home substitution came as Sammon was replaced by Kris Doolan as Archibald hoped for some fresh legs and impetus up front. The game took a slight lull as proceedings became scrappier. Chris Erskine then came on for Miles Storey in the final home change while defender Jozo Simunovic came on for Scott Sinclair as Rodgers looked to shore up at the back.
The away side kept pressing forward though as Edouard failed to hit the target on this occasion before Griffiths also dragged his effort wide.
Nir Bitton was the final substitution of the evening, with the Israeli replacing Edouard. Forrest shot wide in the Hoops’ final attempt of the evening as injury time approached.
Penrice was denied late on as his left-footed effort was blocked away for a corner in the dying seconds. It was the full-back himself who took the set-piece but new signing, on loan from Bournemouth, Baily Cargill, missed the target with a header as the game came to a close.
Speaking after the game to BBC Sport Scotland, Jags boss Alan Archibald commented:
“After the first 15 minutes, when we looked a bit tentative, our belief grew and we created a couple of opportunities. There are positives to take, but, my overriding emotion right now is disappointment as we have taken nothing from the game. We encourage them to do it [pressing the ball], but together, not in ones or twos, and, when we did manage to do it, we won the ball back off of Celtic’s mistakes and we got our reward [by winning the penalty].
It should be a sending off, by the letter of the law, or so I have been told by the referee guys, so, I am a bit disappointed with that as it allowed them to change shape and bring Leigh Griffiths on who changed the game. Miiles has probably made it easier for the referee with his honesty, by trying to stay on his feet: if he had went to ground and done a few forward rolls, we might have got the sending off as well, which wouldn’t have allowed Celtic to be so dynaic in their changes.”
Also speaking to BBC Sport Scotland after the game was Celtic manager, Brendan Rodgers:
“I thought it was a good performance from ourselves: I felt we had played well in the first-half. There were a couple of mistakes in our build-up, and then we didn’t lock in quick enough from the throw-in, for their penalty – which was a clear penalty. We had to make a change at half-time, to bring a little bit more risk into the game. We took a defender off and put on an extra attacker. The players I thought coped with it really well; we have worked on changing various aspects of our game in training, so, I felt the players adapted to that really well and created lots of chances. It was a good test; not many times have we been 1-0 down domestically but, we made a good reaction in the second-half which is really pleasing.
I think sometimes what the problem is, is that there is an expectancy that Celtic are going to win 4-0 or 5-0 every week and that isn’t always the case. Teams are well organised and will try and make it difficult for you during the game. We didn’t take our chances, I felt we should have had at least 2 goals [in the first-half] and that would have opened the game up for us even more. In the end, they had something to hold on to through the penalty, but, our reaction was very, very, good which showed you the spirit and the quality of this team.”
FULL-TIME: Partick Thistle 1-2 Celtic
1. Tomas Cerny
2. Mustapha Dumbuya
5. Niall Keown
4. Baily Cargill
21. James Penrice
6. Abdul Osman (Captain)
19. Ryan Edwards
7. Blair Spittal (Adam Barton 56’)
24. Andrew McCarthy
39. Miles Storey (Chris Erskine 77’)
18. Conor Sammon (Kris Doolan 71’)
12. Ryan Scully (GK)
3. Callum Booth
9. Kris Doolan
10. Chris Erskine
13. Adam Barton
16. Paul McGinn
17. Milan Nitriansky
1. Craig Gordon
23. Mikael Lustig (Leigh Griffiths 45’)
20. Dedryck Boyata
35. Kristoffer Ajer
63. Kieran Tierney
8. Scott Brown (Captain)
42. Callum McGregor
21. Oliver Ntcham
49. James Forrest
22. Odsonne Edouard (Nir Bitton 84’)
11. Scott Sinclair (Jozo Simunovic 77’)
24. Dorus De Vries (GK)
5. Jozo Simunovic
6. Nir Bitton
9. Leigh Griffiths
10. Moussa Dembele
73. Mikey Johnston
88. Eboue Kouassi
Referee: John Beaton