Dublin: 17°C Tuesday 3 August 2021

Under-fire Celtic and runaway leaders Rangers both win on busy night for Irish in Scotland

St Mirren’s Irish contingent impressed again, while Cork youngster Jaze Kabia scored his first Livingston goal.

Shane Duffy's Celtic beat Hamilton for their first win in five Scottish Premiership games.
Shane Duffy's Celtic beat Hamilton for their first win in five Scottish Premiership games.
Image: PA

CELTIC RETURNED TO winning ways with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Hamilton at Parkhead, while Rangers moved closer to securing the title on a night where several Irish stars shone in the Scottish Premiership.

After four league games without a win for the first time since 2000, the Hoops looked a bit more like their old selves against the league’s bottom side.

Leigh Griffiths fired in a long-distance opener after 11 minutes and returning strike partner Odsonne Edouard added a neat second early in the second half, with the home side missing a few chances to add sheen to the scoreline.

The nine-in-a-row champions remain 23 points behind league leaders Rangers with three games in hand, the Ibrox side winning 1-0 against Hibernian at Easter Road.

Boss Neil Lennon, whose future has been subject to speculation in recent weeks as the quest for a 10th title became increasingly unlikely, saw improvement from his side and will enjoy the respite before starting to prepare for St Mirren at the weekend.

Lennon brought in keeper Scott Bain for Vasilis Barkas for his first game since November and striker Edouard came in for Ryan Christie, who also dropped to the bench, while for Accies, striker Marios Ogkmpoe took over from Callum Smith.

Before the game there was a period of silence to commemorate the death this week of former Celtic manager Jozef Venglos and former defender Johannes Edvaldsson.

The home side bossed the first half, creating chances before the 11th-minute opener.

Griffiths took a pass from Mohamed Elyounoussi after Kristoffer Ajer had won a tackle and before Accies defender Aaron Martin could get too close he despatched a powerful low drive from 25 yards past Ryan Fulton and into the corner of the net.

More chances followed for both sides, but Celtic — for whom Shane Duffy played the full game — doubled their lead in the 48th minute. French forward Edouard was slipped in by Griffiths, taking the ball past Fulton before lofting it high into the net.

Celtic, without being at their very best, were in control as Accies worked hard to contain regular green and white surges while occasionally getting forward themselves.

Ultimately, the game drew to a satisfactory conclusion for the Hoops, battered and bruised in recent weeks, while Accies battle for survival will continue with no massive damage to confidence and perhaps some encouragement from their tenacity.

Meanwhile, Alfredo Morelos left his mark on Hibernian in more ways than one as the striker fired Rangers another huge step closer to the title after a 1-0 win at Easter Road.

The Colombian could easily have been sent off inside 15 minutes after appearing to stamp on Ryan Porteous.

hibernian-v-rangers-ladbrokes-scottish-premiership-easter-road Rangers' Alfredo Morelos (left) and Hibernian's Ryan Porteous. Source: PA

But with the full extent of the incident missed by referee Kevin Clancy, he was free to slot home the only goal of the game just after half-time as Steven Gerrard’s team ticked off another of the challenges before them in their quest for Premiership glory.

They now need just eight more wins to clinch their first league crown in a decade but having survived a trip to a venue that has been particularly problematic under Gerrard’s reign, it is now surely a matter of when, not if.

Hibs were hoping to redeem themselves in the eyes of their supporters having flopped so miserably in Saturday’s Betfred Cup semi-final, but they missed the chance to reclaim third place from Aberdeen.

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Morelos will argue the first-half incident was purely accidental that he planted his foot onto Porteous’ knee as he lost his balance on the soft turf, but there is little doubt the compliance officer will want to take another look.

It was certainly a let off for Rangers when Clancy opted to keep his cards in his pocket and they had more good fortune to be thankful for before the break as the hosts came close.

Later, Porteous dusted himself off and put in a vital block to deny the striker after Ryan Kent had jinked his way in from the left.

But the Scotland squad member was guilty of switching off six minutes after the restart as Morelos grabbed the opener.

He had the striker within arm’s reach but let him wander free as Jack’s pass into Steven Davis was flicked round the corner by the Northern Irishman and similarly again by Aribo to leave Morelos free to fire home his 11th goal of the season.

He likely blame the rutted Easter Road pitch for his failure to make it two soon after, but that won’t matter hugely as his sole goal secured another all-important win. 

st-mirren-v-rangers-betfred-cup-quarter-final-st-mirren-park Jamie McGrath wheels away in celebration. Source: PA

Elsewhere, there was a strong ex-Dundalk — and Irish — flavour to St Mirren’s 5-1 win at Dundee United.

Jamie McGrath scored two penalties, while Dylan Connolly came off the bench to chip in with another goal. Galway native Joe Shaughnessy was also on target for St Mirren, for whom Conor McCarthy played the full game and chipped in with an assist.

Mark Connolly was on the losing side with Dundee United, the Monaghan native booked on the stroke of half time. 

Cork youngster Jaze Kabia continued his flying start to life at Livingston; the former Shelbourne man coming off the bench to score an 88th-minute goal in his side’s 2-0 win over Kilmarnock.

Alan Power and goalkeeper Danny Rogers played the 90 for Killie, the former shown a yellow card, while another Irish ‘keeper, Colin Doyle, was among the substitutes.

Jake Carroll popped up with an assist as Motherwell beat Ross County 2-1 on the road, while St Johnstone and Aberdeen played out a 0-0 draw — Jonny Hayes and Tommie Hoban playing for the latter, though Hoban was withdrawn after just six minutes due to injury.

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