Andy Harrow looks back on Celtic’s Scottish Cup fifth round victory over Partick Thistle.
Celtic’s defence remains a concern for Rodgers
Ahead of Celtic’s mid-week meeting with Zenit St Petersburg, Brendan Rodgers would have been looking for a confidence-building display from his defenders against Partick Thistle. Instead, the concerns will have mounted after Jozo Simunovic’s nightmare performance. While Kieran Tierney and Krostoffer Ajer will have offered some succour in Celtic’s 3-2 victory, the patched-up back four were undone by Simunovic, who was at fault for both Thistle goals. His blind back-pass allowed Doolan to steal in and finish past de Vries in the first half and, with Celtic seemingly set for victory, his errant clearance and subsequent inability to keep Sammon away from goal made it a nervous last few minutes at Parkhead. His nervy display does not bode well for the clash with the Russians.
Thistle have competition for places up front
There were not many positives for Alan Archibald to take from his side’s defeat to Celtic, but one would have been the form of his centre forwards. In a game where Thistle would not have expected to create many chances, Kris Doolan was preferred up front to Conor Sammon, presumably for his greater composure in front of goal. It certainly looked like Archibald had been vindicated after Doolan scored with his only chance of the first half. He struggled to make an impression in the second half though, and the appearance of Sammon re-invigorated the Thistle attack. His goal was his sixth in six games and gives Archibald a difficult decision as to who leads the line against Dundee next weekend.
James Forrest is Celtic’s main man again
James Forrest has been Celtic’s standout performer this season, having added consistency and an end product which had previously been lacking. Against Thistle, he once again showed why he’s become so important to Brendan Rodgers’ team. His first goal was a smart finish with the outside of the boot, while his second came after a powerful run from the centre of the pitch. He was denied a third a few minutes later by a smart Cerny stop, but his hat-trick was only delayed; slamming home from close range in the second half after displaying impressive body strength and close control. Rodgers will be looking for more of the same from the winger against Zenit.
There’s more to come from Musonda
Much like last weekend’s defeat to Kilmarnock, there were glimpses of why Celtic fans were so excited about Charly Musonda’s signing on loan from Chelsea. When he managed to find space he looked a threat, setting up an early chance for James Forrest. Yet, despite this - and for all the flicks and tricks he showcased - Musonda failed to have a hugely significant impact on the game. His end product was, at times, poor and he struggled against the physical holding midfielders Thistle deployed. Of course, it will take the youngster time to adapt to the Scottish game, but there’s enough evidence to suggest that he could prove a canny signing by Rodgers.
Thistle have more important games ahead
There’s no doubt that a win in the east end of Glasgow for Alan Archibald and his Partick Thistle team would have been a significant boon. After all, victories against Celtic do not come around with any regularity for the Firhill side. Yet, defeat - and a reasonably spirited one at that - is no disaster for Thistle who can concentrate on staying in the Premiership. They remain mired in the relegation battle and have a number of crucial games to come, starting next weekend against Dundee. The Scottish Cup can wait for another year.