Celtic moved to within goal difference of securing the Scottish Premier League title by opening up an 18 point lead with six games remaining after a two goal victory over St Johnstone at Celtic Park today. Second half goals from Georgios Samaras and an own goal by Chris Millar settled the game which looked even for long spells.
Samaras has been like a player reborn in recent weeks and continued in the same manner today. From the opening minutes of the game he thundered down the left wing using pace and skill at close quarters to strain the St Johnstone defence.
Gary Hooper could have done better when Anthony Stokes fed him early on but his chip was collected by St Johnstone keeper Allan Mannus. Once play stopped referee Salmond booked Maybury for his foul on Stokes as the Celtic striker played the ball forward for Hooper but despite therefore acknowledging the offence, the ref failed to pull play back after Hooper failed to gain any advantage.
Kris Commons is still looking for his first goal of the season and twice came close today. In the first half Stokes held the ball inside the box until Commons arrives to shoot from 8 yards but he knocked the effort narrowly wide. In the second half a swerving shot was on target for the top right corner of the net before Mannus got a touch.
Liam Craig was St Johnstone’s principle threat and he brought a good save out of Fraser Forster from a free kick midway through the first half. Celtic struggled to create much in the opening period but Michael Lustig crossed from the right wing but found no takers despite running along the six yard line.
Celtic should have taken the lead a minute from the break. Commons sent in a free kick, Samaras missed a header and Mannus blocked but Charlie Mulgrew was on hand the head the rebound, only to see his effort cleared off the line.
Cillian Sheridan and Francisco Sandaza both had good headed efforts to open the scoring early in the second half but neither found the target.
Celtic stepped up the pace just after the hour after Ki and Matthews replaced Stokes and Lustig. Scott Brown saw a shot from inside the D saved.
The opening goal arrived on 66 minutes after Georgios Samaras was involved in a couple of scuffles. The Greek international was grounded inside the box and was then shoved off the ball within seconds of getting back to his feet, again inside the box but the referee didn’t see it. Samaras clearly took exception to this treatment and a moment later shielded the ball using his body until he was dragged to the ground.
It looked like a feisty play by Samaras who was clearly animated. When Kris Commons swung in the resultant free kick Samaras rose and headed back across goal and into the net.
St Johnstone pressed forward looking for an equaliser and might have got one had Adam Matthews not made a last ditch interception to turn the ball behind for a corner. With St Johnstone forward for the set piece Celtic broke quickly. Commons carried the ball forward, and with everyone one else on the field running at full pace, he took a second before sending a 60 yard pass across field to Ki. Ki moved inside before playing the ball out to Samaras on the right. Samaras crossed for Hooper but the ball was turned into the net by Millar.
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