ST JOHNSTONE 1 CELTIC 2
TWO spectacular flashes from Odsonne Edouard within two minutes 10 seconds turned this game on its head at McDiarmid Park this afternoon.
Celtic were trailing with the hour mark approaching following Shaun Rooney’s header five minutes after the interval had put St Johnstone ahead with their first genuine attempt on goal.
However, Edouard, so lethargic in the opening moments of the game, sparked to life and showed the extraordinary talents that had people rating him in the £30million bracket in the summer.
THREE CHEERS…Odsonne Edouard is congratulated by David Turnbull and Tom Rogic after his second goal.
GOAL No.1 arrived in the 60th minute when Callum McGregor sent Ryan Christie through on the left with a neat pass.
The midfielder looked up for a moment before delivering a ball in the near post area and Edouard’s timing was impeccable as he arrived to flick the ball high past the stranded Zander Clark.
GOAL No.2 came in quickfire fashion when Edouard displayed the class that has taken him to the hearts of the Hoops fans while making him the scourge of opposing defences.
David Turnbull sent the ball wide on the left and Christie sold the home defence a dummy by stepping over the pass and let it run to Greg Taylor. The defender pulled the ball back to Edouard who shimmied away from a defender, took another touch as the keeper tried to narrow the angle and then thumped his effort into the net.
Two mesmerising moments of class and three hard-earned and well-won points for the champions.
THE EQUALISER…Odsonne Edouard flicks the ball beyond the helpless Zander Clark.
THE WINNER…Odsonne Edouard squeezes the second goal past the Saints keeper.
The Hoops controlled the first-half, but had nothing to show for their efforts.
The nearest to a breakthrough goal came just after the half-hour mark when Edouard raced onto a through ball on the left. The French ace neatly pushed an inviting cross into the box that was just missed by Christie about eight yards out.
The ball carried to Tom Rogic coming in at the far post and it looked as though the twinkle-toed Aussie was about to bulge the net. He swept a low effort past the exposed Clark, but Callum Booth got back to clear the effort off the line.
The opening appeared in an instant, but if the playmaker had added a bit of loft to his parting shot it would almost certainly have carried into the net. He drilled it low and the opportunity was lost.
PEEK-A-BOO…Neil Lennon watches the action in Perth.
Neil Lennon’s men displayed intent right from the start and dominated proceedings, but, frustratingly, they could not turn possession into goals.
There was an opening in the seventh minute following a bout of penalty-box ping-pong when the home defenders could not properly clear a menacing right-wing corner-kick from Turnbull.
The ball broke to Kristoffer Ajer on the edge of the box, but his attempt on goal was wayward and the ball flew wildly over Clark’s crossbar.
In the 19th minute, Turnbull again sent in an inviting right-wing set-play and Shane Duffy rose powerfully above friend and foe to get his head to the delivery, but, unfortunately, his direction was off and his effort went the way of Ajer’s shot and cleared the bar.
Greg Taylor also attempted a 25-yard drive that followed an identical path and hurtled high over the intended target.
Christie also had a drive from just outside the box that was beaten away by the sprawling Clark and booted to safety by a grateful Perth defender.
Hoops gaffer Lennon sunk lower in his seat on the touchline as a procession of opportunities were squandered by fairly awful finishing.
Then came the blow of conceding a simple goal to the Saints in the 50th minute when the defence slept as Booth slung in a left-wing cross.
McGregor and Taylor were slow to spot the danger and Rooney climbed above them to rocket in an eight-yard header that left Scott Bain absolutely helpless.
KILLER TOUCH…Odsonne Edouard is outnumbered six to one, but he still manages to claim the winner.
But Celtic responded like champions and took over in their bid to get back into the contest.
Edouard had the answer in double-quick time before Lennon introduced Leigh Griffiths and Mohamed Elyounoussi for Rogic and Turnbull in the 75th minute.
Skipper Scott Brown was imperious and Odsonne Edouard was irrepressible as Celtic had clocked up their fourth league win in succession.
Now the champions will welcome Aberdeen to Parkhead on Wednesday before the trip to Dingwall for the 7.30pm kick-off against Ross County a week tonight.
TEAM: Bain; Kenny, Ajer, Duffy, Taylor; Brown, Turnbull (sub: Elyounoussi 75), Rogic (sub: Griffiths 75), McGregor, Christie; Edouard.