Celtic moved within one win of their seventh straight Scottish Premiership title but made extremely tough going of a what looked like a straight forward game as they to beat ten-man Hamilton 2-1.
Substitute Leigh Griffiths came off the bench to hand Celtic the lead once more after the break and, eventually, all three points.
It wasn’t a game that will live long in the memory but it did produce several talking points and areas of concern for Brendan Rodgers.
Rodgers’ Griffiths blindspot must end
The Celtic boss continually overlooking Griffiths and putting him out of the side is a problem, especially when the forward offers the team so much.
While he doesn’t pack the flair or excitement Moussa Dembélé does, Griffiths brings plenty of hard work, energy and desire to the game. Celtic are lacking these things at the moment in their general team play, and Griffiths is a one man hurricane in this sense.
The 27-year-old only needed 57 seconds before putting Celtic back ahead in a game that, while not getting away from them, was by no means under control. Griffiths produced a bullet header from Scott Sinclair’s cross to restore the Bhoys’ advantage and his ability to be in the right place at the right time, and find end product, is very impressive.
Outside of the goal Griffiths was happy to drop off, move deeper and link with the midfield always offering himself as an outlet.
Dembélé looks a £20m player – a few times a season
It was another forgettable afternoon for Dembélé. The Frenchman, of whom so much is expected, failed to deliver yet again and it’s been something that has been far too apparent this season.
His place must come under serious question, especially with Griffiths scoring and generally offering more.
Dembele was lazy and looked disinterested for the most of the time he was on the field against Hamilton, and while the hosts were tough and retained their shape well, the Celtic star never really looked determined to break them down and pose serious questions.
Celtic now just one win away from the title
The Bhoys are a step closer to making it seven in a row and have one hand on the trophy after this win with Rangers and Aberdeen 13 points behind Rodgers’ men.
While this won’t be remembered as a special season it’s a testament to the consistency and motivation of the club that have kept this dominance up.
The win over Hamilton was like many this season and it felt as though Celtic turned up wanting to get the job done by producing the absolute minimum.
They still enjoyed 76 per cent of the ball and 20 shots to the hosts’ three, but it was not vintage Celtic.
Celtic playing in first gear has been going on too long
No tempo, no urgency, no excitement. It was a very dull performance from Celtic but it has often been the case this season.
Everyone knows Rodgers likes his teams to have the ball and dominate, but when they are in that position they hardly show any ingenuity and resort to the same tired old tactics.
Even with Hamilton down to ten men, there was no real desire from Celtic to kill them off and, while they had a lot of the ball, it was all predictable and easy to defend against – even with Accies a man light for more than 45 minutes.
It was ponderous to say the least from the champions-elect and far too many passes were backwards in the first half. When they did attack more in the second half many of their shots were simply wayward and speculative.
Rodgers has no Plan B
They might have enjoyed more than two thirds of the possession but Celtic hardly broke down the Hamilton door and chances were few and far between.
There was a clear problem in a creative sense and it was evident it was going to be a long afternoon for Celtic from very early on. Yes, the hosts were defensive, but with the players at Rodgers’ disposal far more is expected in terms of quality and positivity in an attacking sense.
There was an attempt to grab a third goal later on but Celtic never really looked too interested in finding it, instead preferring to stroke the ball around and see the game out against a Hamilton side reluctant to push out too much given their numerical disadvantage.
Rodgers’ limitations have been exposed several times this season, and it’s a debate over whether he has no Plan B himself or he’s restricted by the players he’s working with.
Either way something needs to give and after statements this week that plans are afoot for next season, then Rodgers should be planning for a different outlook. Odsonne Edouard and Charly Musonda both started on the bench and they are two players offering that alternative approach.
Rodgers, however, does not seem keen on either right now.
Hamilton could’ve done a lot, lot more
Everyone knows the gap in wages between the two teams, but Hamilton had plenty of opportunities to take the game to Celtic but instead decided to restrict the numbers they pushed on forward with.
Going down to ten three minutes before half time didn’t help matters. But before Lyons’ careless dismissal Hamilton remained crammed in their own penalty area for much of the game.
Their shape and organisation was impressive and they frustrated a lethargic Celtic, but in the end it meant little. It’s now 24 games and counting since Accies last won at home to Celtic – something which won’t change if they do not show more ambition.