ST JOHNSTONE 0 CELTIC 4
SALUTE the new Celtic history-makers! If you are going to break your own 100-year record, you might as well do it in grand style.
And that’s exactly what Brendan Rodgers’ men did in Perth this afternoon as they overwhelmed St Johnstone on their way to notching up their 63rd unbeaten domestic game in a remarkable sequence.
They have now surpassed the previous UK best held by Willie Maley’s team which was set between 1915 and 1917. And there can be little doubt Brendan and his Bhoys deserve the applause that is coming their way.
Ironically, it was at McDiarmid Park where they last suffered defeat to Scottish opposition 542 days ago. There was no chance of a repeat on this occasion.
Celtic took control early on, pressed in their usual fashion and, although the Saints fought well and challenged fiercely at times, the roof fell in on them after the 70th minute when the Hoops fired in three goals to underline their dominance.
They were already leading through a 28th-minute effort from Scotty Sinclair following a well-worked corner-kick.
Paul Paton got just in just in front of Moussa Dembele to a cute left-wing cross from Stuart Armstrong from the left to concede the award on the opposite wing.
Armstrong took it and Sinclair got away from a clutch of defenders to meet it first time 10 yards out and his pulverising effort flew high over the outstretched arm of keeper Zander Clark high into the net.
The Saints No.1 had already been involved in some hectic action and showed good safe hands as early as the second minute when Dembele tricked and teased two defenders on the left before his curling effort was well held.
James Forrest and Callum McGregor also combined and the ball broke to Sinclair, but the keeper made a fine diving save.
Celtic moved the ball about with confidence as they probed the Perth outfit’s rearguard and it was no surprise when Sinclair zipped in the breakthrough goal.
In the 32nd minute, Armstrong came within a fingertip of doubling the Hoops’ advantage when he cut in from the left to launch a right-footed curler heading for the far corner, but Clark stretched full-length to get a touch to the effort to send it spiralling round the post.
Three minutes later, McGregor struck one just past the right-hand upright with Clark beaten and moments later the keeper was in action again to hold an Armstrong drive low at his right.
Five minutes from the break, Dembele should have scored the second goal. Forrest, with typical tenacity and trickery, managed to evade a couple of challenges before flighting over an inviting cross from the right.
The French Under-21 international striker concentrated on power rather than precision and sent a wayward header wide of the far post.
David Wotherspoon, who had been a serial offender in the first-half, clattered into Kieran Tierney a couple of minutes after the turnaround and yet again didn’t even receive a warning from referee Bobby Madden.
However, the Saints’ sinner was eventually yellow-carded after a foul too many on Tom Rogic who had just replaced McGregor on the hour mark.
Before that, former Hoops youth player Aaron Comrie had denied his old team a second goal when he knocked a Dedryck Boyata header from another right-wing corner onto the underside of the bar and the ball bounced to safety.
Paul Paton had become the first home player to be booked in the 55th minute after an elbow into the face of Scott Brown that flattened the Celtic skipper. It should have been a straight red card.
Amazingly, Paton has now been booked in each of his last six games against the champions.
By the time the 70th minute had rolled around, Rodgers’ men had fired 22 shots at Clark with 12 on target.
The elusive second goal eventually arrived in the 72nd minute and it was a fabulous piece of work from Dembele who was involved in the lead-up and then finished with some aplomb.
Nir Bitton knocked a pass inside to the powerhouse frontman from the left touchline around the halfway mark. He moved it onto Tierney who slipped in Armstrong. coming in from the left.
The playmaker slotted the ball to the near post and Dembele’s timing was perfect as he arrived to divert an effort wide of Clark’s clawing fingers.
Three minutes later, it was 3-0 and once again the Frenchman, coming back to last season’s form, was involved.
Rogic sent him clear on the left and he turned inside to slam a pass across the face of goal. Steven Anderson got in just in front of the menacing Sinclair, but only succeeded in turning the ball into his own net.
Rodgers threw on Olivier Ntcham and Jonny Hayes for Armstrong and Forrest in quick succession after that as the record-breakers coasted towards an inevitable victory.
A minute from the end, Ntcham brought the curtain down on another excellent performance when he lashed in the fourth goal.
Rogic and Sinclair were involved as the ball was shuttled around with speed and accuracy. It fell to Dembele who unselfishly set up his French pal and the substutute rattled a low drive past Clark at his right hand side.
“We are invincible,” sang the ecstatic Celtic followers at the final whistle.
There can be no argument.
CQN Man of the Match – Stuart Armstrong
TEAM: Gordon; Lustig, Boyata, Bitton, Tierney; Forrest (sub: Hayes 77), Brown, Armstrong (sub: Ntcham 75), Tierney; McGregor (sub: Rogic 60), Sinclair; Dembele.