Rocco Vata seized a surprise chance in the Celtic team to score his first goal for the club in a 5-0 victory over Buckie Thistle.
Vata appeared to be on the way out of Celtic amid several links with Serie A clubs but the 18-year-old came off the bench in the Scottish Gas Scottish Cup fourth-round tie amid reports of talks over extending his contract beyond the summer.
The winger hit Celtic’s fifth goal from close range as the holders eased into the fifth round. Odin Thiago Holm also netted his first Celtic goal while Paulo Bernardo, Kyogo Furuhashi and Luis Palma were also on target.
But Thistle’s offside trap helped them keep the score to a respectable level – Celtic had four goals disallowed.
The Highland League side even had a couple of moments at the other end to excite their roughly 3,000 travelling supporters.
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers named a strong team with only Callum McGregor rested. The captain was handed an extended winter break, thus ending a run of 59 consecutive starts for the midfielder stretching back to December 2022.
Holm made his fourth start of the season in place of McGregor while Liel Abada returned to the starting line-up for the first time since suffering a thigh injury in September.
Buckie got their first taste of VAR after two minutes when referee Chris Graham was called to his monitor to review what appeared to be a trip on Abada, but an offside was spotted in the build-up.
It would be a regular theme of the game and Buckie had another escape when a close offside decision denied Greg Taylor after the left-back’s cross had gone in off Thistle goalkeeper Stuart Knight.
The breakthrough eventually came in the 25th minute when Bernardo lifted the ball over Knight after taking Matt O’Riley’s pass in his stride.
Furuhashi had a goal disallowed after Abada was ruled offside before crossing, before Holm netted in off the post in the 33rd minute following a one-two with O’Riley.
Liam Scales headed off the bar before the Buckie fans were on their feet after centre-forward Josh Peters was played clean through. Joe Hart saved with his feet and there was a suspicion of offside – no flag was raised and Celtic played on and broke for Furuhashi to convert Abada’s low cross four minutes before the break.
There was still time for another disallowed goal before half-time with Abada again caught out from O’Riley’s pass before squaring for Bernardo to net.
Palma extended the lead in the 50th minute when he cut in from the right and fired a left-footed shot inside the near post from 20 yards.
Abada then shot wide from a simple chance before becoming the latest Celtic player to have a goal disallowed for offside.
Buckie fans dreamed again when a VAR check took place for a potential penalty after Scales grappled with Peters but the game continued.
Vata tapped home in the 76th minute after good wing play from fellow substitute Mikey Johnston.
Rodgers handed a debut to 18-year-old midfielder Daniel Kelly and brought on Stephen Welsh – but seven minutes too late for the defender to face his cousin, Peters, who had gone off for the visitors.
Knight saved well from Palma and Kelly before the Buckie players took the acclaim of their supporters.