22 Jan Celtic ease past Rovers
Celtic eased into the fifth-round of the William Hill Scottish Cup as expected with a 3-0 win over Albion Rovers at Airdrie’s Excelsior stadium.
Winger Scott Sinclair dampened any prospect of a shock when he opened the scoring in the 29th minute with a dipping drive.
Brendan Rodgers’ side continued their domination of the League One part-timers after the break and striker Moussa Dembele notched from close range in the 77th minute with his 20th goal of the campaign, while tireless midfielder Stuart Armstrong added a third in the final minute.
Rodgers, whose squad had returned last week from a sunshine winter break in Dubai still unbeaten domestically, treated the tie with respect, fielding a strong team to recommence the season.
With Denmark international Erik Sviatchenko suspended, defender Dedryck Boyata started for only the second time this season while left-back Kieran Tierney returned for the first time since October after recovering from ankle and shoulder problems.
The champions adapted quickly to the artificial surface although their first effort on goal did not come until the 11th minute when midfielder Nir Bitton drove over from 30 yards.
A minute later Rovers keeper Ross Stewart did well to tip Armstrong’s left-footed shot from 20 yards over for a corner – which came to nothing – before Mikael Lustig’s lofted ball into the penalty area was headed over by Dembele.
Darren Young’s side remained compact and disciplined but began to creak as the Hoops stepped up the pressure.
And just minutes after Sinclair had a close-range drive saved by Stewart at his near post, the Englishman took a pass from Tierney and fired high into the top corner from 18 yards for his 13th goal of the season.
The former Aston Villa and Manchester City attacker had the ball in the net again five minutes from the break after racing on to a Bitton pass, but was ruled offside.
Jozo Simunovic replaced Lustig at centre back for the start of the second-half which – after four minutes – saw Stewart dive down to his right to hold James Forrest’s left-footed shot from 10 yards, before Armstrong fired just over from the edge of the box.
The Coatbridge side tried to break up the park but Celtic’s grip grew tighter.
Callum McGregor replaced Tierney just after the hour-mark and Celtic kept pressing for the second goal to alleviate the prospects of late nerves.
Dembele’s header from a Forrest cross sped past the target and then he had a powerful drive pushed past the post for another corner which proved fruitless before Boyata’s header from a McGregor cross rebounded off the bar.
As the Parkhead men kept up the pressure, Rovers’ defender Ross Dunlop cleared an effort from Simunovic off the line but the second goal eventually arrived when Dembele forced in a cross from skipper Scott Brown, who was set up by winger Patrick Roberts, on for Forrest.
In the final minute Roberts burst into the Rovers box to tee up Armstrong for an easy third from a couple of yards out.