CELTIC swept into 2024 with a one-sided 3-0 triumph over St Mirren in Paisley on January 2.

The honour of scoring the champions’ first goal of the new year fell to Japanese speedster Daizen Maeda in exactly 54 SECONDS.

Coincidentally, the international winger also netted the club’s first goal of 2023 when he opened the scoring in the 2-2 draw at Ibrox and, amazingly, he got the first of 2022 when he struck on his debut in the 2-0 victory over Hibs on January 17.

The hosts were still reeling when Matt O’Riley, with his tenth goal of a prolific campaign, struck with a quickfire second.

And making life even more difficult for the Saints, they had striker Toyosi Olusanya red-carded just before the interval for a studs-up challenge on Joe Hart as they clashed going for a left-wing cross.

Greg Taylor wrapped up an impressive victory with the third goal on the hour mark.

NEW YEAR – AND SAME OLD ROUTINE…Daizen Maeda fires in the first goal of 2024 as he crashes a shot past St Mirren keeper Zach Hemming.

The holders kicked off the defence of their Scottish Cup against the gallant Highlanders of non-league Buckie Thistle and it was a practically a one-way procession at Parkhead as the hosts romped to a 5-0 triumph.

Paulo Bernardo got the breakthrough goal and Kyogo Furuhashi and Luis Palma added others. There were also two first strikes for Odin Holm and Rocco Vata as they got on the scoresheet for the first time.

However, it was a strangely subdued Celtic the following weekend when they stuttered through a 1-0 success over relegation-threatened Ross County where Alistair Johnston netted the only goal in the first minute with the help of a massive deflection.

The Hoops’ cause wasn’t helped by two penalty-kick misses from Luis Palma in the 24th minute. The Honduran fluffed the first when keeper George Wickens pushed away his shot at his right.

IN WITH A SHOUT…Joe Hart made a huge save in the toiling 1-0 win over Ross County.

VAR noticed three County players had encroached in the 18-yard box and the kick was ordered to be retaken. Lamentably, Palma hit it towards exactly the same spot and once again the on-loan Fulham netminder dived to save.

It could have got worse for the champions in the fading moments when Joe Hart threw himself to his right to push away a low drive from Jordan White and pounce on the rebound as an opponent raced in.

At the end of the day, Celtic were five points ahead at the Premiership  pinnacle.


January 2 2024: Premiership: St Mirren 0 CELTIC 3

Maeda, O’Riley, Taylor

January 21: Scottish Cup Fourth RoundCELTIC 5 Buckie Thistle 0

Bernardo, Holm, Kyogo, Palma, Vata

January 27: PremiershipCELTIC 1 Ross County 0


* TOMORROW: Don’t miss Diary of an Epic Season: February 

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