ST MIRREN 1 CELTIC 5
RAMPANT Celtic managed five times in one half what they couldn’t down in two and a half games in Paisley – score a goal!
Once Filipe Jota managed to squeeze in the breakthrough strike in the 56th minute for the leveller it opened the way for the dam to burst.
Alistair Johnston, with his first for the club, Liel Abada, Matt O’Riley and Oh Hyeon-gyu, from the penalty spot, rammed home the Hoops’ superiority as they restored their nine-point advantage at the Premiership pinnacle.
It had been another frustrating first-half for the champions against the Saints spoilers who were out to break up the rhythm of the visitors right from the kick-off.
However, the machine clicked into top gear in the second-half and 10-man Saints, who had Charles Dunne red-carded in the opening 45 minutes, collapsed under the relentless pressure.
THE FIRST…Filipe Jota is flat on his back, but his effort is on its way into the net beyond the stranded Trevor Carson (below) with Kyogo Furuhashi getting a good view.
NUMBER ONE arrived 11 minutes after the turnaround and it was a due reward for Jota who had not been enjoying his finest outing for the Hoops, but stuck with the task throughout.
Johnston, Abada and Aaron Mooy all combined on the right with the Australian hitting the ball to the backpost. There was an almighty melee, but it was the Portuguese winger who got the final touch.
He managed to stab the ball low beyond the grasping fingers of Trevor Carson and there was relief among the joy for the players and the supporters as the barrier had at last been broken.
THE SECOND…Alistair Johnston outjumps Mark O’Hara at the back post to power a header high past Saints keeper Trevor Carson.
NUMBER TWO arrived only five minutes later after Jota had been crudely body-checked by Ryan Strain after a neat nutmeg.
Justice was done when Mooy flighted the left-wing free-kick into the box and Johnston came thundering in at the back to display awesome desire to climb high and thump a header towards the net.
Carson got a touch, but the sheer power of the header forced its way into the net.
THE THIRD…supersub Liel Abada wallops a right-foot drive beyond the fingers of Trevor Carson with Joe Shaugnessey helpless.
NUMBER THREE came in the 70th minute and it was all down to the menace of Abada who played a one-two with Mooy, drove into the box and then belted a low effort wide of Carson at his right.
It was fitting the early second-half substitute should get a goal after his enthusiastic approach as soon as he entered the action.
THE FOURTH…Matt O’Riley calmly sidefoots the ball home with Oh Hyeon-gyu getting a good view.
NUMBER FOUR was claimed in the 72nd minute by Matt O’Riley, his first in the league this season, when he knocked a ball sideways to Johnston who rolled it in front of Abada.
The Israeli winger whipped over a cross from the right and O’Riley nonchalantly delivered the knock-out blow with a first-time shot from close range.
THE FIFTH…Oh Hyeon-gyu whips in a penalty-kick to bring the curtain down on the Hoops’ bunch of fives.
NUMBER FIVE came from the penalty spot from Oh after the South Korean had been hauled bck in the box when Alex Gogic got a hold of his jersey.
Referee David Dickinson saw nothing untoward, but was instructed by VAR to look again at the incident on the trackside screen and, as anticipated, he returned to the pitch to point to the spot.
Oh stepped forward to drill a low shot under Carson’s body at his left.
It was the perfect end to a day that had not started so brightly.
The opening half was dominated by two controversial penalty-kick decisions – both, unsurprisingly, going against Celtic.
The first was the award of an early spot-kick to the home side when a handball was spotted by the eagle-eyed VAR assistant Andrew Dallas and then backed up by onfield official Dickinson who went through the formality of looking at the screen.
As expected, he inevitably pointed to spot and Mark O’Hara duly gave the Saints a sixth-minute advantage by sinking his effort low to Joe Hart’s right. That was to be the hosts’ only shot on target throughout the afternoon where the Hoops No.1 could have caught up with his reading.
THE BREAKTHROUGH STRIKE…Alistair Johnston is all smiles after claiming his first goal for Celtic that put them into a 2-1 lead. Greg Taylor adds his congratulations.
It was Greg Taylor who was punished when it was obvious to all that a close-range flick from Alex Grieve had hit his arm which was clearly not in an unnatural position.
However, it looked as though the penalty situation had been evened when Dickinson awarded one to the visitors after Dunne had hauled Kyogi Furuhashi to the ground in the 38th minute.
The home defender, who had just been warned by the ref after a series of offences, was woefully short with a passback to his keeper and the Japanese striker swept in to take possession only to be sent crashing by the Paisley player.
Dickinson flashed a red card at Dunne and pointed to the spot. However, Dallas, with his multi-screen advantage in the Glasgow office, was quick to say the offence had taken place just outside the box.
The original foul was a few yards from the box, but the final clawing of Kyogo’s jersey was on the 18-yard line. That constitutes a spot-kick as the line is seen as part of the penalty area.
Not to Dallas, though, and the spot-kick decision was overruled and a free-kick awarded just outside the box.
Between them, Jota and Callum McGregor squandered the opportunity.
OH HAPPY DAY…South Korean striker Oh Hyeon-gyu races away in triumph after his penalty-kick goal with Sead Haksabanovic in pursuit to join in the celebrations.
Once again, Celtic toiled on a ground where they had not scored in their previous two visits and went in at half-time without ending that sequence.
The nearest they came was a Reo Hatate 18-yarder that clipped the crossbar on the way over. In truth, you would have expected the in-form midfielder to have at least worked the keeper.
The first change by Ange Postecoglou came at the start of the second-half when he put on Abada for the rarely-seen Maeda.
Over the course of the second-half, there were appearances for O’Riley, Oh, Sead Haksabanovic and Tomoki Iwata as Hatate, Kyogo, Jota and Mooy.
In the end, it was job well done and the so-called Paisley goal jinx was well and truly shattered to smithereens.
Now all eyes are on Paradise on Wednesday evening with Hearts the visitors in the champions’ ruthless pursuit of their second successive championship.
TEAM: Hart; Johnston, Carter-Vickers, Starfelt, Taylor; Mooy (sub: Iwata 74), McGregor, Hatate (sub: O’Riley 66); Jota (sub: Haksabanovic 71), Kyogo (sub: Oh 66), Maeda (sub: Abada 46).