EVEN the biggest of journeys start with a single step. After a year-and-a-half of totting up an increasingly ridiculous number of games without defeat, Celtic started afresh with an ultimately comfortable, if slightly laboured, win over Partick Thistle last night to move five points clear at the top of the table.

Stuart Armstrong’s stunning strike and Kieran Tierney’s third goal of the season were enough to win the match, if not quite enough to exorcise the ghosts of Sunday’s thumping defeat to Hearts.

Another positive for Brendan Rodgers though would be seeing new signing Marvin Compper taking his bow at half-time after sealing his move from RB Leipzig earlier in the day, and his presence was a glimpse of the fresh blood that Celtic look to be needing almost as much as the impending winter break.

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Perhaps with that in mind, Brendan Rodgers made three changes to the side that lost at Tynecastle, with Kristoffer Ajer, Stuart Armstrong and Odsonne Edouard coming in for Jozo Simunovic, Olivier Ntcham and Leigh Griffiths.

Thistle boss Alan Archibald was forced to rest midfielder Martin Woods after he picked up an illness, with young Andy McCarthy coming in, and Connor Sammon also made way for Steven Lawless after they suffered a heavy defeat of their own at Dens Park at the weekend.

It has been a gruelling campaign for Celtic so far, this being the 35th outing already in a campaign that has taken them all over Europe and to the League Cup.

Fatigue is inevitable, and anyone expecting Celtic to come roaring out of the traps as they looked to avenge the end of their unbeaten run were to be disappointed, with header over the bar from Ajer the only effort of note in a dull opening quarter of an hour.

Teirney was the first to test Tomas Cerny with a low effort that the Thistle keeper got down to hold, before the visitors tried to make an impression at the other end by forcing couple of corners, one of which saw Jordan Turnbull’s header blocked by Scott Brown as it headed towards goal.

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The deployment of McCarthy’s energy directly against Brown was impairing the Celtic captain’s ability to dictate the game as he would like, and the visitors navigated to the half hour mark with ease against a flat-looking home side.

Scott Sinclair had barely been seen in the game to that point, but he cut inside onto his right foot to curl an effort just over from 30 yards to serve a reminder to Thistle that they couldn’t afford to switch off.

Unfortunately for the Jags, it was a warning they failed to heed, and Armstrong broke the monotony by firing Celtic in front in spectacular fashion 10 minutes before the break.

Tierney made his way down the left before feeding the ball into the midfielder, who had time to take three or four touches before unleashing a stunning left-foot effort that rocketed high into Cerny’s net from the corner of the area.

It was a little harsh on Thistle to go in behind at the interval after a decent showing, but Celtic finally looked to be hitting their straps early in the second half as a fine passing move ended with Mikael Lustig playing in Tierney, whose ball across the six-yard area was begging to be tapped home, with no takers.

A mistake by Turnbull then presented Edouard with his first clear sight of goal, but the forward couldn’t punish the slack header as Cerny got down to turn away his volley from 18 yards.

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The forward tested the Thistle keeper again shortly afterwards with a flick from Sinclair’s low ball, but again the Czech stopper was equal to the challenge.

Just as the mobile phone lights were being customarily held aloft in tribute to the Lisbon Lions though, Celtic put the result beyond doubt.

A neat one-two on the edge of the area between Tierney and Sinclair saw the former get away from Paul McGinn all too easily and slam the ball into the net from close range.

The Celtic fans then rose as one on the 69th minute to acclaim the run of undefeated matches that had just ended. Whether this routine victory signals the start of another record-breaking journey for the champions, only time will tell.

CELTIC: Gordon; Lustig, Boyata, Ajer, Tierney; Brown, Armstrong; Forrest (Hayes, 62’), McGregor, Sinclair (Johnston, 71’); Edouard (Griffiths, 79’).

Scorers: Armstrong (35’), Tierney (68’)

PARTICK THISTLE: Cerny; McGinn, Keown, Devine, Turnbull; Edwards, Barton; Lawless, McCarthy (Erskine, 58’), Spittal (Fraser, 73’); Storey (Doolan, 64’).

Booked: McCarthy (16’), Barton (44’), Devine (53’), Fraser (87'), McGinn (88'), Erskine (90').