CELTIC celebrated a hat-trick of 2-0 victories with this latest win over a resolute St Johnstone side at Parkhead this afternoon.

Goals from Giorgos Giakoumakis, making his first start for the club, and Josip Juranovic, from the penalty spot, sealed the three points to follow the identical results against Motherwell and Ferencvaros over the past eight days.

It was a game for the Hoops to grind out a triumph and they stuck with the task against opponents who were willing to battle for everything.

Celtic were in a rush to get into their stride and in the eleventh minute, Callum McGregor brought Zander Clark into action with a sweeping low shot from just outside the box, but the Saints keeper instinctively thrust a right foot at the effort to divert the ball to safety.

OFF THE MARK…Giorgos Giakoumakis celebrated his first start with his first goal for Celtic.

Filipe Jota and McGregor combined superbly to set up an opportunity for Tom Rogic, but the Aussie’s timing was off as he attempted a first-time shot and the ball bounced off his standing foot and rebounded to a grateful Saints defender who completed the clearance.

All eyes were on Greek striker Giakoumakis in his first start, but the powerhouse frontman was being well marshalled by ex-Celt Jamie McCart.

Cameron MacPherson was the first name in referee Nick Walsh’s book when he scythed down Jota as the Portuguese raider eased into his stride on the left wing.

On the half-hour mark, it looked as though the Hoops were missing the darting menace of Kyogo Furuhashi through the middle with the Japanese international operating on the right wing and Giakoumakis in the centre.

In the 34th minute, though, the Greek hitman, who registered 26 strikes in the Eredivisie last season, claimed his first goal for Celtic after a fabulous right-wing pass from Anthony Ralston.

A shot from Juranovic spun off a Saints defender and bounced to the right-back who took control of the ball in an instant. A quick look up and he spotted Giakoumakis at the near post.

The full-back’s cross couldn’t have been bettered and the hitman, racing clear into a great position, was unmarked on the six-yard line to first-time an unstoppable drive past the helpless Clark.


BARRIER-BREAKING GOAL…Giorgos Giakoumakis fires the ball behind the helpless Zander Clark.

SEVEN IN HEAVEN…Giorgos Giakoumakis celebrates his goal with the Celtic fans.

It was the goal so desperately required to break down the resistance of a well-drilled Perth outfit.

Rogic was trying to get into the game and wasn’t helped by a barge in the back from Craig Bryson in the 54th minute that earned the Saints midfielder a yellow card.

Goalscorer Giakoumakis was replaced by Mikey Johnston in the 61st minute with the substitute taking over the left-wing berth, Jota moving to the right and Kyogo going into the centre.

Three minutes later, David Turnbull and Rogic moved sweetly down the pitch with a succession of quickfire passes, but the Aussie’s final ball was too high for Kyogo.

A clever low pass from Johnston was snatched by keeper Clark with Kyogo menacing as the Hoops piled on the pressure.

The game lacked spark, but Celtic continued to press in search of the second goal to give them some breathing space and Clark denied them again with a brave dive at his near post when Ralston sent in an inviting cross with Johnston in the vicinity. The Perth No.1 recovered after treatment following a collision with the woodwork.

ON THE RUN…Filipe Jota was busy as usual.

The Hoops threatened again a couple of minutes later and had what looked like a stonewall penalty-kick turned down when Jota was clearly pushed to the ground by Clark as they chased a deflection from a Johnston shot.

Outside the box, it’s a certain free-kick, but the match official looked the other way.

Astonishingly, he booked Cameron Carter-Vickers only moments later when the on-loan Spurs was kicked on the ground by Chris Kane who was also cautioned. The Perth man could have seen red and the American international looked mystified for his part in the blow-up.

In the 80th minute, Walsh got it right when Kyogo was brought down on the edge of the box and the match official unhesitatingly pointed to the spot. Old Hoops favourite Efe Ambrose was booked for his part in an earlier incident in the lead-up to the award.

The pacy hitman played an exquisite one-two with Jota before he was clattered by Liam Gordon, who was yellow carded for his clumsy challenge.

CRASH LANDING…Kyogo Furuhashi is sent tumbling by Liam Gordon for a stonewall penalty-kick.

SPOT ON…Josip Juranovic makes no mistake with the award.

EAR EAR…Josip Juranovic celebrates after his expertly-take spot-kick.

DOUBLE THE JOY…Ange Postecoglou and his No.2 John Kennedy celebrate a goal.

Juranovic, who scored a spot-kick in Seville against Real Betis last month, took over the penalty duties from captain McGregor, who failed against Ferencvaros, and the Croatian defender made a superb job with a drive low to the keeper’s left with Clark taking off for his right.

A minute later, Liel Abada came on for Kyogo to get some game time from Postecoglou and moments later, Albian Ajeti replaced Jota.

Johnston was out of luck in the 88th minute when he stepped inside to curl in a low effort that left the Perth keeper motionless, but smacked off the base of the left-hand post and was booted to safety.

Now all eyes are on Easter Road on Wednesday night when Celtic continue their quest for Premiership points against Hibs.

TEAM: Hart; Ralston, Starfelt, Carter-Vickers, Juranovic; Turnbull, McGregor, Rogic; Jota (sub: Ajeti 86), Kyogo (sub: Abada 81), Giakoumakis (sub: Johnston 61).


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