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  • Griffiths makes history but Celts defeated in Perth

    Griffiths makes history but Celts defeated in Perth

    By: Mark Henderson on 11 May, 2016 21:26

  • SPFL Scottish Premiership
    McDiarmid Park, Perth
    Wednesday May 11, 2016

    ST JOHNSTONE...2
    (MacLean 55, Cummins 78)

    CELTIC...1
    (Griffiths 53)

    LEIGH Griffiths became only the eighth Celtic player in history to hit the 40-goal barrier in a single season but his strike wasn’t enough to prevent the champions going down to a 2-1 defeat away to St Johnstone.

    The hit-man broke the deadlock eight minutes into the second half with a fine run and finish and it looked as though the Hoops were on course for another victory in the penultimate game of the campaign.

    But Steven MacLean capitalised on a defensive error from Stefan Johansen to swiftly restore parity at McDiarmid Park.

    And with 12 minutes left on the clock, the home side completed the turnaround as substitute Graham Cummins found the net from close range after Efe Ambrose and Logan Bailly failed to deal with Joe Shaughnessy’s cross.

    But it was still the Celtic fans who were in full voice as the final whistle sounded and the players saluted the brilliant backing they had received in Perth and throughout another championship-winning season.    

    Ryan Christie  was handed his first Celtic start as Ronny Deila made seven changes to the team that defeated Aberdeen on Sunday to clinch a fifth successive title.

    The 21-year-old – who signed for the club last September from Inverness Caley Thistle before returning there on loan until January – had featured four times for the Hoops but all of those appearances have come from the bench.

    Christie replaced Tom Rogic in the No.10 role, with Bailly, Saidy Janko, Emilio Izaguirre, Johansen and Scott Allan also coming into the starting XI.

    Craig Gordon, Mikael Lustig, Charlie Mulgrew, Kieran Tierney, Nir Bitton and Stuart Armstrong were the other players to drop out.

    Teenager Anthony Ralston was named among the substitutes after impressing for the Development Side in recent weeks and he enjoyed a memorable evening by making his first-team debut late in the second half.

    While the match bogged down in the middle of the park, took until the 15th minute for Celtic to fashion the first meaningful chance when Christie picked out Griffiths from the byline but the striker’s goal-bound header was pushed away by goalkeeper Zander Clark.

    The Hoops, now getting to grips with the wholesale changes in personnel, seemed to be growing in ascendency at this juncture but then the home side burst into life with a flurry of chances.    

    First, Bailly was penalised for handling outside his area near the touchline, and when Liam Craig fired in the resultant free-kick, the loose ball broke for Brian Easton who saw his shot cleared off the line.

    Moments later, Easton had another sight of goal as David Wotherspoon supplied him on the edge of the box from a corner but the full-back’s effort was deflected wide.

    Striker Chris Kane was next to threaten as he got in behind the Celtic defence to fasten onto a through ball but his angled drive flew beyond the far post.

    Having survived this spell of pressure, the Bhoys replied with a curling shot from Patrick Roberts that spun inches wide and a free-kick from Griffiths which was charged down. Izaguirre also saw a dangerous crossed punched clear by Clark but a breakthrough remained elusive before the break.

    Celtic upped the tempo as the second-half got underway, with Christie close to reaching Allan’s cross from the left.

    In the 53rd minute they opened the scoring thanks to a superb run and finish from Griffiths. Johansen supplied Scotland’s Player of the Year in the box and he evaded the clutches of several defenders, before calmly slotting the ball past Clark.    

    However, less than two minutes later the Saints were gifted a leveller. Johansen was robbed in the box by MacLean and he chipped the ball over the stranded Bailly.

    That failed to dampen the spirits of the Hoops faithful, still intent on celebrating five-in-a-row, and the visitors’ attacking quartet of Roberts, Christie, Allan and Griffiths continued to link up to good effect and search for a route through the well-organised home rearguard

    Roberts and substitute Nir Bitton tried their luck from distance and Christie saw a shot saved by Clark but they couldn’t muster a second goal.

    And it was the Perth outfit who broke away to grab number two. Right-back Joe Shaughnessy galloped down the right wing and his swirling delivery was met by Ambrose as Bailly attempted to punch it clear. The ball dropped kindly for Graham Cummins who applied the finish.

    Celtic exerted some late pressure and Christie almost grabbed scored a last-gasp equaliser after Clark had spilled McGregor’s shot but Tommy Wright’s men held firm to secure maximum reward.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Bailly; Janko (Raltson 74) Ambrose, Sviatchenko, Izaguirre; McGregor, Johansen (Bitton 66); Roberts, Christie, Allan (Rogic 80); Griffiths
    Not Used: Fasan, Tierney, Armstrong, Forrest

    ST JOHNSTONE (4-4-2) Clark; Shaughnessy, Anderson, Scobbie, Easton; Wotherspoon, Brown, Craig, Swanson (Doyle 90); Kane (Cummins 59), MacLean
    Not Used: Mannus, Sutton, Hurst, McCawl, Krachunov

    Website Man of the Match: Leigh Griffiths

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