ST JOHNSTONE 1 CELTIC 4
THERE was no mistake as relentless Celtic swept aside stubborn opposition to maintain their nine-point advantage at the Premiership pinnacle at McDiarmid Park this afternoon.
In the High Noon shoot-out, the Perth outfit were blown away for the third time this season as Ange Postecoglou’s side made certain the dodgy surface did not become a banana skin to interrupt their quest for a second successive title.
It took an own goal to get the ball rolling, but after that breakthrough strike, Kyogo Furuhashi, Aaron Mooy and substitute David Turnbull, with virtually the last kick of the ball, took over to cement the triumph.
NUMBER ONE…Kyogo Furuhashi (half-hidden by post) whips over a low cross which is about to be deflected past keeper Remy Matthews by his St Johnstone team-mate Andy Considine while Reo Hatate waits to pounce.
Bizarrely, it was Andy Considine who deflected a Koyogo cross past his own keeper for the opener in the 13th minute.
The veteran defender was also on target for the visitors during the 2-1 win in October when he inadvertently misdirected a right-wing cross from Sead Haksabanovic past Remy Matthews.
And lightning struck twice at the same venue when Considine was unfortunate enough to turn a low whipped effort from Kyogo past his own keeper for a second time.
To be fair, though, to the former Aberdeen stalwart, if he had not made a connection it would certainly have been put into the net by either Reo Hatate or Daizen Maeda who were right behind him.
The deflection was the conclusion of a marvellous move by the Hoops with Kyogo starting it with a sweeping pass to to Maeda on the right. He pushed it inside to Mooy and, remarkably, the pacy Japanese raider had caught up with play to receive a pass from the Australian.
Kyogo took a touch before sizzling the ball low across goal and Considine couldn’t get out of the way as the ball hit him on its way past the startled Matthews.
The Hoops’ top scorer’s glory moment was only delayed until the 22nd minute when he doubled his team’s advantage.
NUMBER TWO…Kyogo Furuhashi spins to fire a mighty right-foot drive past Saints defender Alex Mitchell while Andy Considine looks on.
Once again, the pace of the movement left the Saints breathless. Mooy kicked it off with a superb pass to Jota on the right. The Portuguese winger showed some dazzling footwork before picking out Kyogo in the box.
The prolific hitman took a touch before swivelling to wallop an unstoppable drive the exposed Matthews high into the net.
However, Celtic were given a jolt only three minutes later when the home side pulled one back with an effort right out of the blue.
Hatate surrendered possession on the left and the ball was shuttled forward quickly before two passes released Drey Wright coming in from the right.
No danger threatened until he drew back his right foot and fired a ferocious swerving, dipping 25-yarder beyond the frantically-diving Joe Hart.
It was the strike that brought the keeper’s hopes of a seventh successive shut-out to an abrupt halt and the veteran shotstopper did not look too happy.
NUMBER THREE…Aaron Mooy cheekily clips the ball over the stranded Remy Matthews.
Normal service was resumed, though, in the 37th minute when the champions claimed a peach of a goal, deliciously finished by the impressive Mooy.
Cameron Carter-Vickers passed to Kyogo who moved the ball onto Jota on the right. The little magician lobbed a perfect ball into the path of the inrushing Mooy who completed the move with a delightful flick over the head of the stranded netminder.
Remarkably, the title kings only had one shot on target in the second period – Turnbull’s goal!
In the second minute of stoppage-time, the unlucky Considine, playing his 600th club game, brought down substitute Oh Hyeon-gyu to give the Hoops a free-kick just outside the box. The defender’s misery was compounded when referee David Dickinson produced the red card.
Matt O’Riley knocked the ball to his right to Turnbull who thundered a first-time drive low past the static Matthews.
NUMBER FOUR…David Turnbull is congratulated by Callum McGregor, Greg Taylor, Matt O’Riley and Sead Haksabanovic after his scorching low shot to complete the scoring in Perth.
VAR then took its usual eternity to decide the strike was valid and the Hoops could celebrate their fourth and final goal of a satisfying visit to Perth.
Prior to Turnbull’s clever strike, the nearest the visitors had come to adding to the first-half scoreline was a tremendous 25-yard drive from Jota that clipped the crossbar in the 54th minute with the opposition keeper again motionless.
Boss Postecoglou introduced O’Riley and Liel Abada for Hatate and Maeda in the 69th minute and 10 minutes later it was the turn of Oh and Turnbull to come on for Kyogo and Mooy.
The last introduction to the party was Sead Haksabanovic for Jota in the 86th minute.
The champions can now take a rest from collecting crucial points to focus completely on Saturday’s Scottish Cup fifth round visit from St Mirren.
TEAM: Hart; Johnston, Carter-Vickers, Starfelt, Taylor; Mooy (sub: Turnbull 79), McGregor, Hatate (sub: O’Riley 69); Jota (sub: Haksabanovic 86), Kyogo (sub: Oh 79), Maeda (sub: Abada 69).