Celtic were not at their best but proved too good for Partick Thistle in a 1-0 Scottish Premiership win at Firhill. The visitors scored in the 24th minute when the midfielder Olivier Ntcham’s shot took a deflection off his captain, Scott Brown.
The defending champions, with a Champions League play-off first-leg tie against Astana to play on Wednesday, dominated for large spells but found creating chances increasingly difficult, giving battling Partick hope all the way to the final whistle.
After starting with five teenagers in Celtic’s convincing 5-0 Betfred Cup win over Kilmarnock in midweek the manager, Brendan Rodgers, brought back experience with his eight changes.
James Forrest replaced the striker Leigh Griffiths as the main attacker with Brown, Mikael Lustig, Nir Bitton, Jozo Simunovic, Ntcham, Callum McGregor and Scott Sinclair also coming into the starting lineup.
Partick signed strikers Miles Storey and Conor Sammon earlier in the day and the latter, on a season-long loan from Hearts, started up front while Storey, who arrived from Aberdeen on a two-year deal for an undisclosed fee, was on the bench.
Thistle, captained by Kris Doolan, were soon chasing as Celtic quickly got into their passing game. In the ninth minute Tomas Cerny made a decent save from Forrest’s drive on the turn inside the box, after Sinclair had sliced through the defence with ease.
The breakthrough came after Cerny made a fine save from Bitton’s curling free-kick from 25 yards at the expense of a corner. Jonny Hayes’s cross was cleared but only to Ntcham and the 21-year-old French midfielder, signed from Manchester City in the summer, fired it straight back in with the ball appearing to come off Brown before it passed Cerny.
It was all too comfortable for the champions at that point and they came close to a second when Brown headed a Lustig cross on to the roof of the net. Six minutes after the break Kieran Tierney robbed Steven Lawless and drove into the Partick penalty area only to drag his shot wide of the far post, seconds before Doolan headed a Christie Elliott cross over the bar when he should have scored.
Storey replaced Doolan and, before Chris Erskine came on for Lawless, Rodgers replaced McGregor and Hayes with Griffiths and Tom Rogic. That double substitution energised Celtic, who would have doubled their advantage in the 70th minute had Callum Booth not headed Simunovic’s header from a Griffiths corner off the line.
Thistle were emboldened in the final stages, which gave Celtic opportunities on the break, but Cerny was largely untroubled and there was a late and unsuccessful penalty appeal from the home fans for a Bitton tackle on Storey.