Celtic celebrated a modest home victory over Hamilton Academical with a lap of honour, which signalled their relief at the end of a rocky passage that had seen them beaten by Hearts in the Scottish Premiership, knocked out of the Champions League qualifiers by AEK Athens and assailed by constant speculation about the fate of Dedryck Boyata.

The Belgian World Cup centre-back had deserted his team-mates by declaring himself unable to play in the European ties, and the motive was revealed when his agent revealed that the 27-year-old was intent on securing a move to richer pastures in Spain, Italy or France.

To judge by the excoriation directed towards him by Celtic fans on social media, there was little chance of rehabilitation – an impression reinforced before kick-off by the banner brandished by the supporters in their standing section, which read: “Boyata – Not Fit To Wear The Jersey.”

Under such circumstances, Brendan Rodgers can award himself a pat on the back for managerial shrewdness in giving the player his first start of the season.

On a grey and overcast day that reeked more of November than August, Boyata illuminated a similarly drab game by scoring the only goal after 63 minutes.


Celtic had several other chances, but it was Boyata who took his, in both regards.

The Belgian reacted first to a knock-down header by Mikael Lustig to stab the ball over the line and put Celtic into second place in the table, three points behind Hearts and one ahead of Rangers, who visit Celtic Park next Sunday.

“We looked organised and tight,” said Rodgers afterwards. “We had to have that persistence in our game.

“That type of game, we drew too many times last year.

“However, it comes, you take it. Dedryck was there at the right moment to tap it in. He‘ll be available again for the next game.”

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Celtic supporters fortunate enough to have access to the hospitality lounges before this match were treated to a much-savoured appetiser in the form of the televised action from Fir Park.

There, true to the projected script, Peter Hartley – the Motherwell captain who had to apologise to Rangers manager Steven Gerrard for mocking the broken nose suffered by Fabio Cardoso against the Steelmen last season – scored with the last kick of the ball to deprive the Ibrox team of two points in a 3-3 draw.

© Daily Telegraph, London