CELTIC 1 ST JOHNSTONE 0
THE Bhoyata done good on a historic night for Celtic!
Dedryck Boyata, looking to be on his way out of the club in this transfer window, was the matchwinner on the evening the Hoops racked up their 26th unbeaten domestic encounter.
A feat that matched that of Jock Stein’s all-conquering outfit during the unforgettable 1966/67 campaign when they won everything in sight, including becoming the first British club to lift the European Cup.
Now Brendan Rodgers’ men are a mere 90 minutes from shattering the 50-year old record when they face Hearts at Parkhead on Sunday.
But let’s applaud the players who achieved the Lions’ share this evening on a cold night in the east end of Glasgow.
Everyone knew St Johnstone would make it difficult, fight for every ball and scrap for every bit of space. And the Perth side didn’t let anyone down with those expectations.
The confrontation had been mainly bossed by Celtic, but the McDiarmid Park side have built a reputation in recent seasons as being crafty and wily when it comes to breaking forward.
So, the Hoops had to make sure the back door didn’t swing open and allow the visitors the opportunity to spoil the party.
It had been a frustrating stalemate until the magical 72nd minute. Stuart Armstrong, who had displayed Trojan-like qualities throughout, picked out Boyata, starting only his third game of the campaign, with a neat cross.
The Belgian defender got his head to the ball to send an effort wide of the despairing Zander Clark.
And that was the goal that mattered, the one that equalled the remarkable feat of Big Jock’s side half-a-century ago.
It should also be remembered it moved Celtic TWENTY-TWO points ahead of their nearest challengers in their quest for their sixth successive title.
There was a special welcome for skipper Scott Brown, making his 400th appearance, as he led the Hoops team out.
The dynamic Armstrong, in particular, was anxious to upset the Saints’ hit-on-the-break tactics by getting the breakthrough goa.
The in-form midfielder tried his luck from range in the in the 18th minute, but keeper Clark collected high at the junction of post and bar.
Two minutes later, the home team and their fans breathed a sigh of relief when a low right-foot shot from Danny Swanson left Craig Gordon helpless, but cracked against the base of the left-hand post.
It was a let-off as well as acting as a wake-up call and, in the 23rd minute, Armstrong again tried his luck, but this time he was just off target.
Just after the half-hour mark, Moussa Dembele was next up to threaten Clark’s goal, but he, too, saw his effort sweep wide.
In the 36th minute it was that man Armstrong again as he put in a pulverising shift in trying to galavanise his team-mates. Clark was again equal to his parting shot.
Two minutes later, with the champions piling on the pressure and Saints defending furiously, Scott Sinclair missed the top corner and then James Forrest had an effort well saved by Clark.
Dembele thumped one wide of the upright as half-time approached and then Sinclair saw a drive blocked by a frantic Perth defender.
The Hoops were being forced to play a patient game by Tommy Wright’s well-organised outfit and it took until the 56th minute until a chance opened up in the second-half and Brown’s attempt was blocked.
A couple of minutes later, Forrest drilled one over the bar. Celtic had the possession, but they didn’t have the goal to show for their efforts.
They hammered away without success until Boyata’s moment of brilliance.
Now all eyes are on Hearts at Parkhead on Sunday.