NEW Bhoy Timothy Weah made an instant impact at Paradise by scoring in Celtic’s comfortable 3-0 win over Airdrieonians in the fourth round of the Scottish Cup, with a brace from Scott Sinclair ensured progression for the Hoops, as they marked their first game of 2019 with a convincing victory.
The Scottish champions pressed the visitors deep into their half from the outset, and controlled much of the possession with some fast, sharp and direct football. A searching pass over the top from Dedryck Boyata found Scott Sinclair inside the first minute, but the winger struggled to bring the ball down with his head.
Two minutes later, a wonderful long-ball from Filip Benkovic found Anthony Ralston on the right, whose touch inside found Oliver Burke. A neat piece of footwork allowed the 21-year-old to return the ball to the overlapping right-back, who forced a save at the feet of Airdrie goalkeeper David Hutton.
The Scottish champions continued to press their opponents deep, and their next half-chance came via Boyata. Sinclair collected the ball on the left flank, played the ball on to Callum McGregor, who found the Belgian centre-back in space on the edge of the penalty area. The 28-year-old fired a right-foot shot which soared high and wide over the crossbar.
A well-organised Airdrie frustrated the home side with 10 men behind the ball, before carving a half-chance of their own when Leighton MacIntosh forced a fine sliding clearance from Boyata on the break. On 29 minutes, a bursting run and cross from Emilio Izaguirre at the other end was met by Forrest on the volley, but Hutton gathered the ball at chest-height.
Just after the half-hour mark, Celtic were awarded a penalty when Izaguirre collected a loose ball following yet another aggressive run from Ralston on the right and was brought down. Sinclair’s spot-kick was struck low and hard to the goalkeeper’s right, but Hutton saved well at full stretch.
On 35 minutes, McGregor again picked out Ralston on the right, whose low cross was turned over by Sinclair in front of goal. Two minutes after that, Sinclair broke the deadlock when Burke forced a low save from Hutton, only for the 29-year-old Englishman to emphatically fire home from two yards.
Minutes from half-time, Airdrie orchestrated another counter-attack, which forced a series of great reaction saves from Scott Bain, to deny the visitors a barely-deserved equaliser.
Brendan Rodgers’ men returned from the interval with the same intensity and confidence in possession, again regularly pressing their opponents deep into the final third. On 49 minutes, Hutton denied McGregor the chance to double Celtic’s lead, and a handful of half-chances for Christie, Burke and Forrest followed.
Ahead of the hour mark, Sinclair doubled his tally for the day, when a Christie corner was headered towards goal by Boyata. McIntosh’s block forced another reaction save from Hutton, but the Airdrie stopper spilled the ball into the path of the ever-clinical Sinclair, who struck the loose ball high into the net.
Burke continued to pose a threat in front of goal, and was unfortunate not to score on a couple of occasions. On 67 minutes, Hutton again saved well from the 21-year-old forward, and Scott Sinclair again found the net, but this time was ruled offside.
On as a substitute for Sinclair, it didn’t take long for Timothy Weah to get off the mark in Glasgow’s green and white when, on 82 minutes, a perfectly-weighted pass from Boyata allowed the 18-year-old to get in behind the Airdrie defence, and slip the ball under the opposing keeper. Paradise duly erupted, and, five minutes later, Weah turned provider, but his whipped low-ball was just out of the on-coming Burke’s reach.
It was a comfortable performance from the Hoops, and a convincing start to the defence of the Scottish Cup.
CELTIC: Bain; Ralston, Boyata, Benkovic, Izaguirre; Forrest (Johnston 68), McGregor, Brown (Bitton 81), Christie, Forrest, Sinclair (Weah 68), Burke.
Subs not used: Gordon, Lustig, Ajer, Henderson
AIRDRIE: Hutton, O’Neil, MacDonald, Crighton, Milla, Gallacher, Stewart (Duffy 76), Campbell (Carrick 59), McIntosh, Wilkie (Glass 53), Edwards.
Subs not used: Mackenzie, Robertson, Page, Cairns