CELTIC 4 – 1 St JOHNSTONE
CELTIC served up a devastatingly effective second half to sweep St Johnstone aside in a 4-1 victory at a sun drenched Celtic Park this afternoon as the Champions moved another step closer to achieving their invincible target.
Next up are away trips to Aberdeen and Patrick Thistle before the final game of the season at Parkhead when Hearts are the visitors on an already sold out trophy day.
Then it’s Hampden for the Scottish Cup Final against Aberdeen when the SFA can enjoy their work watching more Dons fans than Celtic supporters at a match in Glasgow. Something that’s never happened before.
But back to today and let’s start at the end. Scotty Sinclair, who was wonderful when he replaced young Mikey Johnston halfway through the second half, walked over to the Standing Section with Kieran Tierney.
Both players applauded the support as usual but this time they took anti-racist t-shirts from the supporters, with both playing holding up the shirt’s message for all to see.
Celtic had earlier condemned the racism before kick-off, reminding the crowd that we have always been a club open to all.
And in the first half when Leigh Griffiths went over to take a corner in front of the Green Brigade, the striker paused to clap his hands just as the supporters sang “if you hate the Sevco Rangers, clap your hands.” I think they said Sevco!
Tom Rogic set the tone in the first minute with a decent low shot from distance, which Clark in the St Johnstone goal did well to turn behind for a corner.
Boyata should have scored from the excellent delivery but his free header sailed over the crossbar.
In the tenth minute Craig Gordon surprised everyone by passing to a St Johnstone player inside the Celtic box but Boyata cleaned up the mess and Celtic broke quickly. Rogic led the charge to the Saints goal but Griffiths’ final ball from the right was just short and the danger was cleared.
Rogic was the main threat to the visitors and on 14 minutes he won a free kick at the edge of the box which saw Armstrong’s effort come back off the St Johnstone wall.
The big Aussie was clearly enjoying himself and a minute or two later he put young Johnston through for a shot at goal. Unfortunately his powerful effort was straight at the keeper who saved well.
Rogic was next to test the keeper who knocked it behind for a corner. Griffiths paused before taking it to join in the hand clapping, much to the delight of the Celtic support.
Kieran Tierney got to byeline on 20 minutes and won yet another corner. A clever low delivery from Griffiths to Rogic saw the Aussie twist away from the Saints defence but his curled shot went just over the bar.
Celtic were well on top but couldn’t get the opener their play merited.
Armstrong’s effort on 26 minutes from edge box flew just wide and moments later Steven MacLean was booked for a trip on Roberts.
On 31 minutes, a great cross by Anthony Ralston had no takers for a tap in. It was nevertheless wonderful play by young full back.
A fizzing Tierney shot from 25 yards flew narrowly wide before constant Celtic pressure ended in an Armstrong curled effort just missing the target.
On 40 minutes, lovely skill from Leigh Griffiths resulted in a long range Bitton effort which went high over the bar.
St Johnstone threatened down Celtic’s right on 42 minutes but a robust Ralston tackle cleared the danger.
Two minutes later a series of slack passing from Celtic resulted in a cross from the left which was knocked down by MacLean for Alston who hammered his shot over the Celtic bar. This was best chance of the half, he should have scored.
So it was goalless at half-time but that was about to change as the game resumed. A great run Johnston, a cut back to Roberts and his low shot goes into net – 47 minutes, 1-0 Celtic.
The lead lasted a minute when St Johnstone caused havoc in the Celtic penalty area. Craig Gordon saved well but Celtic failed to clear and MacLean picked up the scraps to hammer the ball high into the net for an undeserved equaliser.
Griffiths drove Celtic forward from the restart and had his first meaningful effort of the day. Then he put Rogic in and his cross was deflected for a corner as Celtic upped the tempo.
Griffiths put the corner kick onto Boyata’s head four yards out and just like last Saturday at Ibrox, the big Belgian wasn’t going to miss from there.
Mikey Johnston had another chance to score on 52 minutes but after a great run he fluffed his shot. That was his last involvement in a hugely impressive debut as he was replaced by Celtic’s Player of the Year Scotty Sinclair before the action resumed.
Sinclair looked every bit the best player in Scotland as he set about finishing off Tommy Wright’s side’s resistance.
On the hour, a Griffiths Sinclair 1-2 inside the box resulted in Scotty blasting his shot over the bar.
A minute later Armstrong shot wide after another 1-2 with Sinclair.
Then Clark produced a good save from Griffiths which he pushed wide away from danger. But Sinclair chased a lost cause to keep ball in. His cross beat the keeper resulting in a tap in for Roberts, 3-1 Celtic.
Swanson was booked for cynically taking out Rogic before the Aussie found Sinclair in space, his great run into box brought out another great save but ball fell back to Scotty who shot wide with goal at his mercy.
McGregor replaced Rogic with 20 minutes remaining and first touch was a mazy run beating four defenders before passing into net – another brilliant goal from a player full of confidence.
A month ago he wouldn’t have scored with that chance.
The loathsome Paul Paton hacked down Griffiths and both were booked as the Celtic striker took offence to the thug. Then Tierney was aggressive in a tackle and was spoken to by the referee. Wotherspoon took his revenge moments later and was cautioned.
James Forrest replaced Paddy Roberts who received a well deserved standing ovation for his man of the match performance.