IT was a case of deja vu for St Johnstone keeper Zander Clark when Celtic thrashed seven goals into his net in the rampant 7-0 victory at Parkhead on Saturday afternoon.
The towering St Johnstone netminder was in the same place on August 3 2019 when the Hoops kicked off the new season with the exact same scoreline as Ryan Christie fired in a hat-trick and Mikey Johnston, Olivier Ntcham, Odsonne Edouard and Leigh Griffiths contributed the others.
On that particular afternoon in the east end of Glasgow, it was the start of something good as the Hoops powered on to clinch their ninth successive title.
Amazingly, though, skipper Callum McGregor was the ONLY player on the pitch of the 14 who participated two years and four months ago such has been the upheaval at the club in recent times – including, of course, a change of manager with Ange Postecoglou replacing Neil Lennon.
THAT’S MY BHOY…Callum McGregor congratulates Matt O’Riley after his second goal in the 7-0 hammering of St Johnstone.
Christie (Bournemouth), Edouard (Crystal Palace), Ntcham (Swansea) and Kristoffer Ajer (Brentford) are now plying their trade across the border.
Former onfield team leader Scott Brown is on the look-out for a new club after his summer move to Aberdeen as player-coach didn’t go according to plan while Hatem Abd Elhamed is back in Israel with Hapoel Be’er Sheva after his short stint at Parkhead.
Striker Griffiths is now on a short-term switch at third-tier Falkirk after the Hoops scrapped his contract at the turn of the year when his season-long loan deal at Dundee was ended early after only three goals in 17 appearances.
Left-back Boli Bolingoli has no future at the club and is likely to be moved on in the summer while keeper Scott Bain, Nir Bitton and Anthony Ralston were unused substitutes at the weekend. Johnston, who got the opening goal in August 2019, wasn’t in the squad while James Forrest missed out through injury.
For CQN readers who enjoy a walk down the Celtic memory lane, here is our match report from the league opener 28 months ago.
CELTIC 7 ST JOHNSTONE 0
CELTIC were in seventh heaven as they put down their impressive marker with nine in a row in their sights.
It’s one down and 37 to go for Neil Lennon’s men as they overwhelmed bewildered and well-beaten St Johnstone during a surging triumph in the sunshine at Parkhead this afternoon.
The Hoops were irresistible as they stormed to the first points of the campaign with Ryan Christie claiming a tremendous hat-trick and Mikey Johnston, Olivier Ntcham, Odsonne Edouard and Leigh Griffiths chipping in with the others as the Perth outfit collapsed under the torrent of non-stop attacks.
PARADISE…the flag flies over Parkhead yet again – now for No.9.
In the sixth minute, the Hoops underlined their intentions when they carved open an opportunity, but, unfortunately, Johnston was off target with his parting shot. Next up, only moments later, Christie swept a shot just too high.
It took only nine minutes for Johnston to claim the first goal in the team’s positive bid for yet another championship, the 51st in the club’s proud history.
The lively youngster twisted one way, then another before taking aim and dispatching a sweet right-foot angled drive low beyond the helpless Zander Clark at his left after some good service from Edouard.
It kick-started an onslaught of pressure on the Saints keeper and it was no surprise when he was picking the ball out of the rigging for a second time in the 26th minute. And once again it was a neat, clever move as the Celts surged forward and James Forrest, so often the scourge of the Saints, set up Christie perfectly on the edge of the box.
The elegant playmaker wasted little time in sizing up the situation as he delivered a peach of a left-foot curler high into the top left hand corner of the net.
WHAM…Ryan Christie (far right) thumps in the second goal.
SINKING FEELING…Zander Clark crashes to the turf as Christie’s shot nestles behind him.
Clark was blameless on that occasion, but the overworked shotstopper looked culpable when the champions netted a third in the 30th minute. He sprawled full length to his left to push away a scorching low drive from Edouard, but the ball was gathered by new Bhoy Hamet Abd Elhamed and worked to the ever-menacing Forrest.
He teed it up for Christie about 25 yards out and once again he did not dwell on the opportunity. The Scotland international midfielder swept it goalwards with his trusty left foot and it clearly took Clark by surprise as it bounced in front of him and beyond his grasp to his right.
WALLOP…Ryan Christie strikes the Hoops’ third goal.
HOW ABOUT THAT? Christie looks pleased with his effort.
In the 41st minute, the goalie breathed a sigh of relief when Forrest missed from close range after a superb run and cross from the right by Elhamed who looked as though he was relishing the occasion. The winger was a little careless with his finishing and screwed it wide of the target.
Only moments later, the keeper dived to his right to beat away a low drive from Forrest who looked desperate to join in on the goal parade.
At referee Kevin Clancy’s half-time whistle, the Saints No.1 looked the most relieved man in the east end of Glasgow as he headed for the dressing room for some respite.
Six minutes after the turnaround, Elhamed’s debut appearance came to a halt as he limped off with Anthony Ralston coming on to take over his No.2 berth. It was a bit unfortunate for the eager Israeli looked as though he was thoroughly enjoying his day in the sun.
On the left flank, Boli Bolingoli, also taking his Premiership bow, was busy linking with his attack, but a few of his deliveries were a bit on the heavy side and often cleared the danger area. No doubt that manager will point this out to the Belgian at Lennoxtown next week.
HAIL THE HAT-TRICK HERO…Ryan Christie is congratulated by Callum McGregor after completing his trio.
In the 68th minute, Christie demonstrated there was nothing wrong with his range or accuracy when he blitzed in the fourth goal to complete a scintillating hat-trick.
The Highlander snapped onto a pass from Johnston and from fully 25 yards struck a right-foot effort of stunning quality and power high past Clark as the keeper threw himself to his left.
Three minutes later, Christie went off to a standing ovation and Olivier Ntcham arrived on the scene with explosive timing by scoring the fifth goal with his first touch of the ball.
His French countryman Edouard carried the ball forward from the middle of the park before slipping it in front of the midfielder who cracked a left-foot drive on the run between Clark and his near post to his right.
The feelgood factor continued in the 76th minute when Leigh Griffiths replaced Johnston with Parkhead rocking as Lennon’s men continued to turn the screw.
Edouard decided to get in on the act in the 80th minute when he latched onto a through pass from Griffiths, raced into the box, sidestepped Clark and rolled the ball into the inviting net.
MAGNIFICENT SEVEN…Leigh Griffiths got in on the act.
The scene was set for Griifths to score his first league goal since November 24 last year against Hamilton Accies and he duly took centre stage in the 86th minute with the seventh following some excellent forward play from Ntcham.
Poor Clark was left clutching fresh air as a sizzling and unstoppable low effort from the edge of the box hurtled beyond him into the net.
What a way to bring down the curtain on a perfect start to a Premiership campaign.
TEAM: Bain; Elhamed (sub: Ralston 51), Bitton, Ajer, Bolingoli; Brown, McGregor, Forrest, Christie (sub: Ntcham 71), Johnston (sub: Griffiths 76); Edouard.