Samaras stars again to send Celtic top

Celtic 4 Hamilton 0
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The Independent Online

No easy games in football any more? Pull the other one. This was such a stroll for Celtic that they romped it even though they lost Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink to injury within three minutes and struggled to pass the ball with any consistency for 20 minutes.

By the time Shaun Maloney jinked with ease through the visitors' defence late on to set up the hosts' fourth goal, scored by Aiden McGeady, Celtic were toying with their opponents and could have registered a double-digit scoreline. As it was, Shunsuke Nakamura, Georgios Samaras, Scott McDonald and McGeady found the net once each.

Hamilton did not force a single save from Celtic's goalkeeper, Artur Boruc, during open play. Even when they were awarded a penalty in the 78th minute, they could not score. James McCarthy had gone to ground under what seemed a fair challenge from Gary Caldwell. James McArthur took the resulting spot-kick, Boruc saved twice, from the initial shot and from a headed second effort.

"It was good for [Boruc] to be involved," said Celtic's manager, Gordon Strachan, afterwards. "He was practically a spectator for the rest of the afternoon."€

The win takes Celtic back to the top of table, until this afternoon at least. It was especially pleasing for Strachan after a midweek defeat by Villarreal in the Champions' League. That was a 15th loss in 16 away games in the group stages at Europe's top table. Taking care of domestic business is thankfully more routine.

"I'm more than satisfied with that," Strachan said. "I'm absolutely delighted." He said that the only negative was the abductor muscle problem that led to Vennegoor's substitution. The Dutchman, who will be out for an as yet unknown period, was replaced by Samaras, who started the move in the 25th minute for the opener.

The big Greek found McGeady, who crossed from the right to Nakamura on the opposite post, and the Japanese midfielder controlled and shot. Nakamura was the supplier for Samaras's low shot for 2-0. McDonald made it 3-0 after a dogged run, and Maloney's pull back set up McGeady with seven minutes left.

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