Saturday 10th December, 2016 at 1:00am
Partick Thistle took on defending champions Celtic for the first time of the 2016/17 campaign on a cold Friday night at Firhill. The Jags came into the game one place off bottom spot but just three points behind Kilmarnock in sixth place. On the other hand, the visitors were looking to extend their lead at the top of the table to 11 points.
Two changes were made to the team who drew with Hamilton last weekend as David Amoo and Chris Erskine came in for Ade Azeez and Ryan Edwards.
The game started slowly with the home side not giving the opposition much space to be creative. Stuart Armstrong saw an early effort fly well over the bar but that was all for the opening stages as both teams tried to gather their bearings.
The next chance for either side popped up 17 minutes in when Leigh Griffiths had a chance to hit a free-kick from around 25 yards. The Scottish international set his sights on goal but his effort bounced wide of the near post, not troubling Tomas Cerny in the Thistle goal.
Griffiths had another opportunity to open the scoring on the 23-minute mark when ex-Fulham player, Patrick Roberts, found space in behind Callum Booth. The Englishman opted to cut the ball back to Griffiths who struck a low shot towards the near post but Cerny got down well to his left to stop the ball.
Griffiths was presented with a third opportunity of the night just four minutes after his last. He found himself on the edge of the box with enough time and space to get a shot away. However, the striker dragged his shot wide of the far post.
In the 33rd minute the home side were able to muster up a rare chance through Chris Erskine. The midfielder had the ball on Thistle’s left flank and he hit a ball into the danger zone. Unfortunately for the Jags man, he saw his attempt narrowly skip past the far post.
Celtic had a chance to whip the ball into the box when Ziggy Gordon halted the Hoops’ counter-attack and was cautioned for the act. Emilio Izaguirre took the set-piece and the Honduran found Leigh Griffiths who once again was unable to bury his chance. The ball fell perfectly for the unmarked attacker but he skewed his volley wide of the target.
Alan Archibald’s side had managed to survive 39 minutes without conceding but were unable to make it to half-time with their clean sheet intact as the man who had missed four chances in the opening period, Leigh Griffiths, turned provider. He created space for himself on the visitors’ left-hand side and hit a low ball across goal. Cerny was unable to reach the ball and Stuart Armstrong lost his man making it an easy finish for the Celtic man.
The game would go into half-time at 1-0. Despite the game being generally dominated by the away side and most of the best chances falling to Brendan Rodgers’ team, the Jags would be feeling disappointed as they were so close to making it to the interval on level terms but it wasn’t to be and they would need a big second half performance to turn things around.
The teams came out for the second period and unlike the opening 45 minutes, it didn’t take long to come to life. Unfortunately for the home support, it was the visitors who were making moves.
Just four minutes after the break the Hoops doubled their lead. Leigh Griffiths stood over a free-kick on the Thistle left and played it short to Armstrong. The midfielder wasn’t closed down quickly enough and he was able to get a shot away with ease. The ball came through a number of bodies and it would have been impossible for Cerny to see the incoming attempt. This meant the Czech ‘keeper was unable to make the save and Armstrong grabbed his second goal of the night.
And Celtic weren’t going to rest on their laurels. Straight from kick-off they were hassling the Jags defence and it would pay off for them. Adam Barton intercepted a Tom Rogic through ball but was quickly dispossessed by Leigh Griffiths. The forward now had a one-on-one chance which he wouldn’t miss. He was finally able to find the net and in the process put his side three goals to the good.
There was now a mountain to climb for the Thistle men if they were to get anything from the game and they would need a quick response if they wanted to get back into the match. They almost got that speedy response when five minutes after the third Celtic goal, Chris Erskine was able to latch onto a loose ball. The number ten would then attempt a delicate chip as he spotted Craig Gordon off his line. However, the shot sailed a couple of feet over the bar.
Alan Archibald then made two changes in an attempt to change his side’s fortunes. David Amoo and Chris Erskine were withdrawn while Ryan Edwards and Steven Lawless were introduced.
The changes seemed to have a positive impact as only four minutes after the alterations, Thistle pulled a goal back. A free-kick from about 15 yards inside the Celtic half was taken by Sean Welsh who curled the ball towards his teammates. Liam Lindsay would get on the end of the cross and the big centre-half looped a well-placed header past Gordon.
Just as the visitors had scored two goals in quick succession early in the second half, the Jags thought they had done the same when Sean Welsh headed home a Callum Booth set-piece, however, the linesman’s flag was up and the goal was chalked off.
Two minutes after Thistle thought they had scored a second goal, the away side almost grabbed a fourth. Leigh Griffiths was able to wriggle his way through two challenges before setting himself for a left-footed shot. The striker then tried to curl in a close range shot but Tomas Cerny was equal to it, excellently tip the ball behind.
In a final attempt to inject some life into his side’s attack, the boss brought Ade Azeez on for Kris Doolan and with ten minutes to go the striker was played in on goal. As he was baring down on goal he seemed to be and went down due to the contact but referee Craig Thompson waved away any appeals for a penalty and brandished a yellow card for the Englishman.
Thistle were left to rue that spurned opportunity to get back into the game as with eight minutes left of the 90, the defending Scottish Premiership champions rounded off a dominant performance with a fourth goal. Full-back, Emilio Izaguirre, was played in behind the Jags defenders and had time to pick out a ball. He lifted a soft but accurate ball in towards the centre where an onrushing Callum McGregor was making a run. The substitute had most of the goal to aim at and made no mistake in volleying home to make it 4-1.
The game would end that way as the Jags’ search for a second home win of the season continued. Despite Celtic controlling most of the proceedings, Alan Archibald’s team would be disappointed to have missed a couple of chances to really get back into the match. At the end of the day Thistle remained in eleventh spot with the rest of the teams in the league still to play this weekend.
Partick Thistle’s next fixture comes on Saturday the 17th of December against Hearts at Tynecastle with a 3:00pm kick-off.