ST JOHNSTONE 2 CELTIC 1
HAIL! HAIL! to Leigh Griffiths for claiming his magical 40th goal in a prolific campaign against the Saints at Perth tonight.
Fail! Fail! to the blundering double-act of Stefan Johansen and Efe Ambrose who spoiled the striker’s party by gifting the points to Tommy Wright’s side.
Griffiths’ big moment arrived in the 53rd minute when he became the first Hoops player to strike 40 goals in a season since club legend Henrik Larsson 12 years ago.
It was a sweeping movement from one end of the pitch with Ambrose slipping a pass to Callum McGregor who moved it onto Johansen and he released it in front of the waiting hitman, poised and ready to hit the trigger.
Griffiths came in from the left, skipped past three tackles and then deftly, with the outside of his left boot, tucked the ball away from the helpless Zander Clark. The euphoric Celt went to celebrate with the fans and relatives and, fortunately, didn’t pick up a booking from erratic referee Willie Collum for his troubles.
But his joy and the champions’ lead lasted only three minutes when Johansen made a catastrophic error to present the home side with the leveller.
The Norwegian, who has had a wretched campaign, sealed it when he thought he was Franz Beckenbuaer, but was more Frank Spencer. He tried to walk round Steven MacLean on the edge of the penalty box and was robbed by the Perth attacker.
MacLean couldn’t believe his good luck as he clipped the ball past the outrushing Logan Bailly who was left totally exposed by the utter rashness of his team-mate who was substituted by Nir Bitton shortly afterwards.
It didn’t get any better for the Belgian keeper who was making a rare first team appearance in the place of Craig Gordon.
The Saints scored the winner in the 77th minute and this time it was a horrendous howler from Ambrose who made certain Ronny Deila didn’t enjoy his last away day triumph as Parkhead boss.
Joe Shaughnessy sent over a hopeful ball from the right that looked like catching practice for Bailly as he left his line to cut it out. However, he hadn’t taken into account Ambrose’s impersonation of a wrecking ball as he came crashing into the shotstopper in a mid-air collision.
The ball broke free and Graham Cummins was delighted to snap up the gift and knock the ball into the empty net. TV pictures proved Cummins was offside, but the error-prone Nigerian wasn’t to know that when he made his calamitous challenge.
It should have been a night of celebration for Griffiths, but the inexplicable actions of two of his colleagues ruined the party.
Emilio Izaguirre also started in what is surely going to prove to be one of his last appearances for the club although he may be given a cameo performance at the weekend.
From the kick-off, there was a lot of nice inter-play and movement, but precious little cutting edge from the Hoops on a night where the stats showed they only had three shots on target.
Allan, who doesn’t look comfortable in a wide left position, was replaced by Tom Rogic near the end and Christie snatched at an opportunity in the fading moments that could have salvaged a draw.
Clark could only parry a drive from McGregor and for a fleeting instant the former Caley Thistle midfielder had a view of the goal, but he was off balance and could only frantically stab the ball into the grateful arms of the home keeper.
It was one of those nights for Celtic. It went from champagne to shambles in a matter of minutes.
We can only hope Ronny gets a proper send-off against Motherwell on Sunday.
TEAM: Bailly; Janko (sub: Ralston 74), Ambrose, Sviatchenko, Izaguirre; McGregor, Johanson (sub: Bitton 66); Roberts, Christie, Allan (sub: Rogic 80); Griffiths.