Hartley sends Celtic four clear
Shunsuke Nakamura scored a first-half penalty as Celtic beat ten-man Hamilton Academical 2-1 to move four points clear at the top of the Scottish Premier League. The Japanese playmaker cancelled out Richard Offiong's opener, after Accies defender Martin Canning was sent off for a foul on Cillian Sheridan at New Douglas Park.
Gordon Strachan's side laboured to get the winning goal, despite their numerical advantage, but it finally arrived four minutes from time thanks to Paul Hartley's superb strike. The result ensured Celtic reopened a substantial lead over their second-placed arch-rivals Rangers, and left Hamilton rooted to the foot of the table.
"It was a difficult game. You've got to give credit to Hamilton, they played very well," Hartley said. They were at it in the first 20 minutes and got a fully-deserved goal.
"Then they got a man sent off and it makes it more difficult for us. When they had ten men, they played very well. Thankfully, we got a goal back before half-time."
Celtic had the first chance of the game, when Sheridan unleashed a left-footed shot which was held at the near post by goalkeeper Tomas Cerny. But Hamilton quickly created a decent chance of their own, James McArthur setting up Offiong for a shot from the edge of the box, which dipped just over the crossbar.
That effort proved to be a warning the Scottish champions failed to heed as the home side took a shock lead with 15 minutes gone. Trent McClenahan was the provider and Offiong threw himself in front of the cross to deliver an impressive diving header into the back of the net.
Hamilton could have doubled their advantage when Brian Easton whipped a teasing corner into the packed goalmouth, and Offiong rose above everyone else in the box to connect with a header, but it was tipped just over. At the other end, Cerny was forced into a decent block when he turned a well-struck effort from Andreas Hinkel past the upright as Celtic pressed for an equaliser before the break.
The Bhoys were back on level terms after 39 minutes, when referee Steve Conroy pointed to the spot after Sheridan was fouled by Canning, who was dismissed. Nakamura duly stepped up and made no mistake from 12 yards.
Celtic had two chances soon after the restart, with Scott Brown screwing wide when nicely positioned and Stephen McManus watching his header get blocked. Substitute Paul Caddis then started the move which resulted in Brown finding himself through on goal, but Cerny pulled off an excellent block to deny the midfielder from six yards.
Just when Hamilton looked set to earn a share of the spoils, Hartley claimed the winner with a powerful half-volley in the 86th minute.