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Partick Thistle 0-1 Celtic: Olivier Ntcham scores winner

by 11/08/2017 20:11:00 0 comments 1 Views

By John Mcgarry For The Scottish Daily Mail

Published: 16:42 EDT, 11 August 2017 | Updated: 20:11 EDT, 11 August 2017

Who says you don’t get much for £4.5million these days? If Olivier Ntcham feels burdened by being the most expensive Celtic player in a generation, he has a funny way of showing it.

At just 21 years of age, the former Manchester City player might have been expected to spend some time assimilating himself with life at Celtic, yet he already has the look of a mainstay in Brendan Rodgers’ side.

When Jordan Turnbull, the Thistle defender, aggressively headed a corner clear midway through the first half on Friday night, the Jags dared Ntcham to do his worst. What a stunning volley he produced, though. Scott Brown may have tried to claim the goal for a vital touch but the technique of the Frenchman was nothing other than sublime.

Olivier Ntcham's first-half strike gave Celtic a 1-0 win over Partick Thistle on Friday
Olivier Ntcham's first-half strike gave Celtic a 1-0 win over Partick Thistle on Friday

Olivier Ntcham's first-half strike gave Celtic a 1-0 win over Partick Thistle on Friday

The new signing from Manchester City scored his side's only goal in the SPL clash
The new signing from Manchester City scored his side's only goal in the SPL clash

The new signing from Manchester City scored his side's only goal in the SPL clash

The midfielder's goal maintains Celtic's 100 per cent start to the season after defeating Hearts
The midfielder's goal maintains Celtic's 100 per cent start to the season after defeating Hearts

The midfielder's goal maintains Celtic's 100 per cent start to the season after defeating Hearts

It garlanded a display that belied his tender years. As Stuart Armstrong’s contract negotiations drag on, the Scot must be aware Ntcham is more than capable of filling the void he might leave.

That moment of brilliance set Celtic up for a victory that was more routine than the scoreline suggests.

It was by no means the perfect performance from the champions. Far from it, in fact. But it was more than adequate to get the job done.

For Rodgers, the hope is that the perfect start to the domestic season will have grim implications for Astana when the Kazakhs come to town next week.

Thistle competed well but were never really in the contest as evidenced by the fact Craig Gordon did not make a save of note. A 22-year wait to take the scalp of their city rivals drags on.

Fresh from a comprehensive victory over St Johnstone in the Betfred Cup, Alan Archibald might have been expected to stick by his guns yet opted to make four changes. Niall Keown, Stuart Bannigan and Kris Doolan were all recalled, with Conor Sammon handed a debut following his move from Hearts.

Celtic’s five-goal swatting of Kilmarnock in the same competition was largely achieved by their next generation, so significant changes to personnel were always likely. Eight players in total came back into the fold, chief among them Jozo Simunovic, Brown and Scott Sinclair.

You could have played bowls on the Firhill pitch. The surface could not have been more to Celtic’s pleasing. On a perfect summer’s evening, they zipped the ball about at will. Thistle’s only hope was to stay in the contest for as long as possible.

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers looks on as his side look to take an early advantage at Firhill
Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers looks on as his side look to take an early advantage at Firhill

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers looks on as his side look to take an early advantage at Firhill

The ball fell to the Frenchman just outside the box before he unleashed his shot
The ball fell to the Frenchman just outside the box before he unleashed his shot

The ball fell to the Frenchman just outside the box before he unleashed his shot

And Partick Thistle goalkeeper Tomas Cerny was not equal to the task as his team fell behind
And Partick Thistle goalkeeper Tomas Cerny was not equal to the task as his team fell behind

And Partick Thistle goalkeeper Tomas Cerny was not equal to the task as his team fell behind

MATCH FACTS 

Partick Thistle: Cerny, Elliott, Keown, Turnbull, Booth, Barton, Bannigan (McCarthy 82'), Lawless (Erskine 64'), Edwards, Sammon, Doolan (Storey 58')

Subs not used: Scully, Nitriansky, Nisbet, Penrice

Booked: Bannigan 

Celtic: Gordon, Lustig, Bitton, Simunovic, Tierney, Brown, Ntcham (Armstrong 78'), Hayes (Griffiths 62'), McGregor (Rogic 62'), Sinclair,Forrest

Subs not used: De Vries, Benyu, Ajer, Ralston

Goal: Ntcham 

Booked: Tierney 

Referee: Andrew Dallas

Attendance: 8,041 

It took only eight minutes for the Jags to be carved open. Sinclair and Kieran Tierney worked a give-and-go that dragged Christie Elliott out of position. Sinclair’s cross picked out James Forrest, who spun and forced Tomas Cerny to stretch to his left to block his shot.

Ntcham spent the evening trying to pick holes in the home defence. One slide-ruler found Forrest unmarked. The winger kept his balance but not his sense of where the target was and fired wide.

Thistle tried to remain resolute. When Brown delivered a geometry-defying reverse pass, Callum McGregor briefly looked to be in on goal. Turnbull, the Partick central defender, produced the most timely of blocks.

It took the Jags 22 minutes to threaten. Sterling work by Elliott ended with him trying to thread the ball through to the tireless Ryan Edwards. Simunovic’s customary slide tackle repelled the danger.

It was all the warning Celtic required. When Bannigan dragged McGregor to the ground, Cerny did well to beat away Nir Bitton’s free-kick but the danger was not over.

Sinclair’s out-swinging corner seemed to have been dealt with by a clearing header from Turnbull. What a strike the young French midfielder Ntcham produced, though.

His right-foot volley fizzed through a ruck of bodies and past Cerny, with a telling deflection off Brown.  

Partick Thistle manager Alan Archibald gestures on the sidelines as his side go 1-0 down
Partick Thistle manager Alan Archibald gestures on the sidelines as his side go 1-0 down

Partick Thistle manager Alan Archibald gestures on the sidelines as his side go 1-0 down

Celtic fans let of flares in the crowd after their side take the lead at Firhill

Celtic defender Jozo Simunovic heads towards goal before it is cleared off the line
Celtic defender Jozo Simunovic heads towards goal before it is cleared off the line

Celtic defender Jozo Simunovic heads towards goal before it is cleared off the line

As manfully as they had striven up until that point, it already looked like a damage limitation exercise for the Maryhill men.

Running on to Mikael Lustig’s cross, Brown might well have killed the contest with his second before the half-hour but only guided his header on to the roof of the net.

Cerny was having to earn his corn. Another Lustig pass played in Jonny Hayes, who quickly sorted out his feet and shot only for the Jags keeper to smother.

Archibald’s men arrived at the interval down but not yet out.

Tierney was never likely to replicate his outrageous strike in midweek but he did come close to scoring in successive games.

Showing Elliott a clean pair of heels, he kept his shot across goal low and hard but it flew wide of the far post.

Turnbull, easily Partick’s best player, made another fine block in the next wave of play and denied him again.

Lacking punch up front, Archibald replaced Doolan with Miles Storey — the forward who has signed from Aberdeen.

Chris Erskine was then thrown on for Steven Lawless. The positive for the Thistle manager was his side stayed organised and alive.

Frustrated that the second goal hadn’t arrived, Rodgers swapped Tom Rogic for McGregor, with Leigh Griffiths awoken from his pre-Astana slumber to take Hayes’ place.

Partick Thistle's Steven Lawless and Celtic's Kieran Tierney battle for the ball down the wing
Partick Thistle's Steven Lawless and Celtic's Kieran Tierney battle for the ball down the wing

Partick Thistle's Steven Lawless and Celtic's Kieran Tierney battle for the ball down the wing

Partick's Kris Doolan misses a glorious second half chance for the hosts as it sails over the bar
Partick's Kris Doolan misses a glorious second half chance for the hosts as it sails over the bar

Partick's Kris Doolan misses a glorious second half chance for the hosts as it sails over the bar

The twin switch almost had an immediate result. Griffiths accelerated down the right to stretch the home defence and guided the ball into the Australian’s path.

Credit for the most timely of interceptions belonged to Keown. Callum Booth was the next hero in yellow and red. Lustig’s head met Sinclair’s corner. The full-back’s diligence on the post kept the deficit at one.

Ntcham departed the scene to rapturous applause with 12 minutes replacing. You would have given a penny or two for Armstrong’s thoughts as he replaced him.

Forrest’s surge up the middle had Partick’s defence scampering to make up the ground. His flick to his left to Rogic was sweet but the midfielder buried the ball in the side-netting.

Brown went one better moments later with a rasping strike that beat Cerny all ends up but it came after referee Andrew Dallas had blown for an infringement.

Save a decent penalty appeal from Storey, the game rather dragged towards its conclusion.

Perhaps not an inevitable one but still the same winning narrative that’s become so familiar under the Rodgers regime. 

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