JOE HART did not attempt to deflect criticism from his howler in the 3-1 Champions League loss to RB Leipzig in the Red Bull Arena during the week.
The keeper’s misplaced delivery allowed Andre Silva to make it 2-1 and any chance of a recovery from the visitors was dynamited when the same player tucked away the third nine minutes from time.
“My fault,” said the 75 times-capped England international immediately after the disappointing outcome in Germany, but the 35-year-old netminder responded like a true professional in the breathtaking stoppage-time 2-1 triumph over St Johnstone in Perth yesterday.
THAT’S MY BHOY…Joe Hart and Josip Juranovic celebrate another Celtic victory.
Hart made a superb save to deny Stevie May a 69th-minute leveller when he swooped to his right to push an angled drive onto his far post where it rebounded to safety. Following that blinding effort, he was called in to make another top stop down to his left after a blind pass inside from Daizen Maeda had created panic.
Unfortunately, the shotstopper was left exposed when Alex Mitchell prodded in the equaliser three minutes into stoppage time before Giorgos Giakoumakis staged his rescue act to make sure of three points with a minute to go.
The £1million signing from Spurs in August last year has brought stability to the back line after the previous season when £4.5million flop Vasilis Barkas, Scott Bain and Conor Hazard shared the goalkeeping duties without anyone putting in a convincing claim to be considered the Hoops’ No.1.
CELTIC VIEW…Joe Hart adjusts his cap in the Perth sunshine yesterday.
Now Hart is ready for another test of his character and capabilities when the Leipzig outfit are visitors on Tuesday night for a crucial Group F confrontation with the hosts searching for their first win in this arena at the fourth time of asking.
One team-mate who is convinced the netminder will play a major role in the pursuit of three points is right-back Josip Juranovic who was rested for the game at McDiarmid Park with Anthony Ralston proving to be a more-than-capable replacement.
The Croatia international said: “Tuesday will be a big night for Joe and one where he can show once again who he is. Joe is our second leader. He’s a great character and an excellent goalkeeper.
“He made a mistake in Germany, but there is no way it will break him. Because he’s a champion. He has been for so many years now.
ON GUARD…Joe Hart covers his near post as St Johnstone’s Connor McLennan blazes a shot off target to the relief of the keeper and team-mates James Forrest and Anthony Ralston.
“As Joe said after the game, we play the way the manager wants us to play. It’s an attacking way, which the players want, and it puts individuals under pressure at certain moments. So, mistakes are going to happen. But they don’t outweigh all the good things that we produce as a team.
“For example, if you look at our Champions League matches so far, we have created so many chances to score. If we had put away a higher percentage of them, we’d already be in a much stronger position in the group.
“But, as we did last year against Bayer Leverkusen and Real Betis, we’ve shown that we can cause problems for some of the biggest teams. That’s exciting and it’s where we want to be.”
Juranovic managed to knock the ball past his colleague in the 2-1 win over Motherwell a week ago and the defender explained: “It was a mix-up between myself and Joe. I believed if I chested the ball back to him, he’d be in the perfect position to receive it.
IT TAKES TWO…saviour Joe Hart and scorer Giorgos Giakoumakis embrace at the final whistle in Perth.
“At the same time, he thought he could come and collect it. We both couldn’t be right and it ended up in the back of the net. You don’t want these misunderstandings to happen, but it’s football, so it’s always possible. Joe and I spoke about it after the game and we’ve moved on.”
Reflecting on the loss last week, Juranovic, speaking to the Daily Record, added: “It was a difficult night in Germany, but this is a fresh opportunity for us, both in terms of making it right against RB and improving our position in the group.
“We have played away against RB Leipzig and Shakhtar Donetsk, now it is their turn to come to our home. Everyone knows it is no easy thing for an opposition team to come up against us at Celtic Park because of the unbelievable support we have.
“You saw in Germany the amazing backing we got from our fans and that was a small fraction of the numbers who will be behind us in Glasgow. Ask any of the players and they will tell you the backing makes a big difference.
“If we can win these games – as I’m sure we can – then we can progress through the group.”