GLASGOW: Scott Sinclair grabbed a brace as Celtic returned to the top of the Scottish Premiership with a comprehensive 4-1 victory over Hamilton on Friday (Saturday in Manila).
The manner of victory will boost the confidence of the Scottish champions ahead of their Champions League opener against French giants Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday at Parkhead.
Stuart Armstrong’s composed finish gave Celtic a 17th-minute lead before Sinclair doubled their advantage with a curling effort 12 minutes later.
Sinclair—who has enjoyed a new lease of life to his career since joining Celtic before last season—added another three minutes before the break for his eighth of the season as the visitors ran rampant.
French forward Odosonne Edouard then marked a dream debut following his loan switch from Paris Saint-Germain with a 65th-minute strike before Alex Gogic headed home an 87th-minute consolation for Hamilton.
The win moves Celtic one point clear of Aberdeen—who visit Hearts on Saturday—at the top of the table as they extend their unbeaten domestic run to 54 matches.
Despite the visit of the superstars of Ligue 1 looming on the horizon, Brendan Rodgers resisted the temptation to rest his top stars as he fielded a strong side which contained five changes from the draw with St Johnstone.
Armstrong carried on the excellent form he showed while on international duty with Scotland as he fired Celtic ahead.
The midfielder gathered the ball wide on the left after Callum McGregor’s shot was blocked and played a one-two with his team-mate before cutting into the box and curling a shot into the bottom right-hand corner.
Edouard’s power and pace helped set up Celtic’s second.
The French forward latched on to Simunovic’s through ball and brushed off two Hamilton defenders to reach the edge of the box where his run was halted by Scott McMann’s sliding challenge.
However, the ball broke to Sinclair, who took a touch and curled the ball past Gary Woods.
Celtic looked unstoppable and Sinclair added another three minutes before the break.
The English winger ran at the retreating Hamilton rearguard before Scott McMann nicked the ball off his toes.
The ball hit the base of his own post before rolling across the face of goal and Sinclair was the quickest to react as he lifted the ball into the net from a tight angle.
Celtic’s intensity dropped in the second half but teenage striker Edouard added a fourth.
The 19-year-old striker charged forward and laid the ball off to Patrick Roberts at the edge of the box.
Roberts—making his second debut for the Glasgow giants since rejoining on loan from Manchester City—slipped a pass back to the Frenchman, whose powerful strike squirmed under Woods before trickling over the line.
With time running out, Gogic powered a header past Craig Gordon.