TOM ROGIC waited almost two years for his first goal for Celtic – now he’s scored twice in the same month to help push Celtic back to the top of the Premiership.
The Aussie midfielder claimed his first strike in the 2-0 win over Partick Thistle at Firhill and he staged an action replay for another memorable effort against the Saints.
It was level at 1-1 when he netted just on the interval to give the Hoops a deserved half-time lead that helped settle the nerves and point the champions in the right direction.
And it got even better at full-time with the news Hearts had lost 3-2 to Hamilton to topple off the pinnacle.
Celtic Park was stunned into silence in the 11th minute when the Perth outfit took the lead with virtually their first foray into their opponents’ half.
It was a bizarre goal, too, but that didn’t stop the Saints players from celebrating as though they had just won the title.
Ronny Deila re-instated Emilio Izaguirre to the left-back position after leaving him out against Malmo on Tuesday with Charlie Mulgrew dropping to the subs’ bench.
However, the Honduran was up against Michael O’Holloran, a winger who has been in excellent form since the start of the campaign. And Izaguirre was left in the pacy attacker’s slipstream as he set up the shock breakthrough goal.
O’Holloran simply raced away from Izaguirre before whipping an inviting pass low into the box. The ball appeared to bobble in front of Craig Gordon as he dived to his right and the unfortunate Dedryck Boyata, racing in to clear behind the keeper, was right in line for the effort to strike him and bounce into the empty net.
That stung an early response from Deila’s men and Izaguirre turned the tables when he motored forward and fired over a left-wing cross which Leigh Griffiths met at the far post. His perfectly-timed header swirled past Alan Mannus, but was frantically cleared off the line by a defender.
And Izaguirre and Griffiths combined again in the 18th minute this time with a lot more success.
Once again, a ball was delivered into the box and the striker didn’t hesitate in walloping a left-foot drive at goal. It took a wicked deflection off Tom Scobie and looped away from the helpless Mannus for the leveller.
That was the signal for a green-and-white assault on the Saints rearguard. In the 33rd minute, Scott Brown tried his luck from outside the box, but the ball carried just wide of the upright.
A minute later, Nir Bitton ambled forward to join the attack and fizzed in a drive which was just a shade too high.
There was a worrying moment for both sides when Murray Davidson clashed with Izaguirre, but, thankfully, both recovered after treatment.
And the Honduran showed he was back to his adventurous best with another raid down the left and a cross which was flashed past the post by Griffiths.
A goal just had to come and it did on the stroke of half-time after a moment of magic from Tom Rogic.
No danger immediately threatened when he had the ball on the bye-line, but he stepped past one challenge, then another and suddenly he had a clear sight of target.
Mannus didn’t stand a chance as his ferocious drive zipped past him and thumped into the net.
The second-half started with Commons getting clear to thunder in an effort that was brilliantly saved by Mannus.
The Hoops were out to kill the game as a contest, but there was a blow just before the hour mark when Brown went down after a clash with Chris Millar. The skipper got back to his feet, but was obviously struggling and he was replaced by Mulgrew.
Eight minutes later the substitute heralded his appearance with the third goal to throw Celtic a safety blanket against opponents who were making life difficult for them.
Commons picked out the versatile Mulgrew after a corner-kick and he left the keeper helpless with a close-range header that bulleted into the rigging.
Scott Allan came on in the 77th minute to make his second appearance for Celtic as he replaced Commons.
He may just be turning into a lucky mascot. He came on against Dundee United last week – and Celtic, of course, coasted to a 3-1 win.
He’s a handy man to have around, that’s for sure.
TEAM: Gordon; Janko, Boyata, Van Dijk, Izaguirre; Brown (sub: Mulgrew 59), Bitton; Rogic, Commons (sub: Allan 77), Mackay-Steven; Griffiths.