Celtic 5 Partick Thistle 0: Hoops ease into Betfred Cup semi-finals as Olivier Ntcham nets brace

Celtic’s iron grip on Scottish football’s silverware shows no sign of slipping. Their remarkable and unprecedented run of consecutive victories in domestic cup ties was stretched to 29 games as they cruised past Partick Thistle into the semi-finals of the Betfred Cup.

Olivier Ntcham celebrates with Lewis Morgan and fellow goalscorers Tom Rogic and Vakoun Issouf Bayo

The galvanising effect of Ian McCall’s return as Thistle manager extended only to a gritty first half display from the team currently at the bottom of the Championship as Celtic were restricted to a single goal lead at the break.

But Neil Lennon’s men cut loose after the break, producing some eye-catching football and high quality goals against their outclassed opponents.

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The depth of Lennon’s squad allowed him the luxury of making no fewer than eight changes to his starting line-up from Sunday’s league win over Kilmarnock, while still being able to field nine full internationals in his side.

Only 18-year-old Dutch full-back Jeremie Frimpong, making his debut following his deadline day move from Manchester City, and French midfielder Olivier Ntcham have yet to be capped at senior level by their respective countries.

It was another indication, if any were needed, of the size of the task facing Thistle whose last victory at Celtic Park was back in 1992.

McCall opted for a 4-5-1 formation aimed primarily at containment, with veteran striker Kenny Miller ploughing the lone furrow up front.

Frimpong made an early impression on the home fans with a slide rule pass which sent Lewis Morgan free down the right, the midfielder’s dangerous cross cut out by Thomas O’Ware just ahead of the lurking Vakoun Bayo.

Celtic were clearly eager to utilise Bayo’s aerial ability at every opportunity and the warning signs were clear for the visitors when the striker nodded just over from Jonny Hayes’ left wing cross in the eighth minute.

Sure enough, it was from a similar combination that Celtic made the breakthrough six minutes later. Ryan Williamson’s foul on Rogic conceded a free-kick in a dangerous position on the home side’s left. Hayes whipped the ball in to the edge of the six-yard box where Bayo outjumped Williamson to steer a header beyond Scott Fox.

It counts as Bayo’s first goal for Celtic, his previously credited double in the league win over Hearts last month having both subsequently been deemed as own goals by the SPFL. There was no dubiety on this occasion.

Thistle were now all too aware of the threat posed by Bayo but that did little to improve their efforts in trying to subdue him. He should have doubled Celtic’s lead in the 21st minute but this time his downward header from a Rogic cross bounced up over the crossbar.

Another excellent delivery from Hayes created Bayo’s next headed opportunity which again cleared the top of Fox’s goal.

Thistle were digging in gamely and with Celtic unable to bring any consistent tempo to their play, the visitors began to probe with greater confidence for a leveller. Joe Cardle’s wickedly curling free-kick into the area found no takers with Thistle skipper Sean McGinty agonisingly close to a connection amid uncertainty in the home defence.

A clever lay-off from Miller then presented Shea Gordon with a clear sight of goal four minutes before the interval but his powerfully struck effort was well saved by Craig Gordon, making his first appearance since the end of August.

But any encouragement Thistle and their noisy travelling support had taken from that spell of play was wiped out within 40 seconds of the restart when Rogic made it 2-0 for Celtic. Ntcham and Bayo were involved in the build-up and the Australian playmaker drilled a precise shot low beyond Fox’s right hand from the edge of the penalty area.

Thistle briefly believed they had cut the deficit when O’Ware headed home from a free-kick but the offside flag was quickly raised.

Any lingering hopes of a recovery for the visitors were emphatically ended by a thunderous strike from around 30 yards from Ntcham in the 56th minute, the ball arrowing into Fox’s top right hand corner.

The Championship strugglers were now being run ragged and Ntcham helped himself to his second goal of the night seven minutes later, this time with a low drive from the edge of the penalty area which went through McGinty’s legs and beat Fox via the inside of his left hand post.

There was still time for Scott Sinclair, making a rare appearance as a substitute, to get in on the act. In his first outing since 10 August, the winger pounced to ram home Celtic’s fifth after Fox had done well to block a shot from Rogic.

CELTIC: Gordon, Frimpong (Hendry 79), Elhamed, Ajer, Hayes; Ntcham, McGregor (Brown 62); Morgan, Rogic, Elyounoussi (Sinclair 66); Bayo. Subs not used: Forster, Bolingoli, Forrest, Edouard.

PARTICK THISTLE: Fox, Williamson, O’Ware, McGinty, Penrice; Cardle (De Vita 59), Gordon (Cole 74), Bannigan, Palmer, Robson; Miller (Mansell 64). Subs not used: Sneddon, Hall, Kakay, Saunders.