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  • Dominant Celts put Saints to the sword in Perth

    Dominant Celts put Saints to the sword in Perth

    By: Mark Henderson on 20 Aug, 2016 14:13

  • Scottish Premiership
    McDiarmid Park, Perth
    Saturday, August 20, 2016

    (Swanson 83, McLean 89)

    (Griffiths 28, Sinclair 40, Forrest 44, 90 +2 Christie)

    CELTIC struck three times in the space of 16 minutes to help put St Johnstone to the sword in Perth and make it two wins out of two in the Scottish Premiership.

    Birthday Bhoy Leigh Griffiths rewarded the Hoops’ early dominance by opening the scoring in the 28th minute with a rasping half-volley.

    Scott Sinclair made it 2-0 with a close-range finish – his third goal in four games since signing from Aston Villa – after Alan Mannus has saved from James Forrest and Griffiths.  

    Forrest looked to have killed off the contest just before the interval with a tremendous individual goal, capping off another noteworthy performance from the winger. 

    There was unlikely late twist, though, as goals from Danny Swanson – from the penalty spot – and Steven MacLean provided a glimmer of hope for Tommy Wright’s side.  

    But substitute Ryan Christie blasted home in stoppage time to ensure Celtic had the last word of a completely one-sided match.

    It was another well-deserved three points for the champions which put them top of the table and continued their impressive early-season form, with attention now turning towards Tuesday's UEFA Champions League play-off second-leg against Hapoel Be'er Sheva. 

    Nir Bitton and Saidy Janko came into starting XI as Brendan Rodgers made two changes to the team that swept aside the Israeli title-winners 5-2 three days ago in Paradise.

    Bitton, making his first competitive start for the Hoops since the opening match of the season in against Lincoln Red Imps, replaced Callum McGregor in central midfield, who was named among the substitutes.  

    Mikael Lustig, meanwhile, made way for Janko at right-back, with the Swedish internationalist dropping out the squad.

    From the first whistle, Celtic took control, utterly dominating possession and pinning the hosts back, deep in their own half.

    Aside from a dangerous cutback from Kieran Tierney that almost fell for Sinclair and a Bitton shot that was charged down at the edge of the box, however, the Saints defence held firm inside the opening 10 minutes.

    An incisive burst from Tom Rogic saw him slide a dangerous ball across goal but it wasn’t close enough for Griffiths to threaten as the pressure continued.

    In the 13th minute, Danny Swanson registered the home side’s first shot on goal when he tried his luck from distance but it was comfortable fare for Craig Gordon.

    Normal service soon resumed, though as O’Connell was inches away from meeting Sinclair’s free-kick, while a superb solo run from Rogic, which saw him evade two defenders, went unrewarded as the Australian was crowded out at the crucial moment.

    A pinpoint corner from Griffiths picked out Sinclair lurking at the far post in the 20th minute but Richard Foster was on hand for Tommy Wright’s side to block his volley.

    Celtic eventually broke the home side’s resistance in the 28th minute. A promising attack looked to have fizzled for the Bhoys when Tierney had to turn back to retrieve a pass. However, the teenager showed terrific tenacity and skill to dart past his marker and fizz the ball into the box.

    Brad McKay could only deflect the ball towards Griffiths and the striker took a touch before rifling home via the underside of the bar.

    Gordon had to make a fingertip save from a curling David Wotherspoon free-kick as the Perth side attempted to respond but the champions were now in full flow and doubled the advantage five minutes before the berak.

    Rogic played in Forrest and the winger’s shot was saved by Mannus and the keeper reacted well to block Griffiths on the rebound but he could do nothing as Sinclair eventually swept the loose the ball into the corner.

    The floodgates had now opened at McDiarmid Park and four minutes later Forrest added number three. Driving down the right, the winger turned Paul Paton inside out before beating Mannus with measured finish.

    After the Scotland internationalist had celebrated his superb strike with his team-mates in front of the Celtic fans behind the goal, he was mystifyingly booked by referee Craig Thomson, despite not entering the crowd.

    Paton’s frustrations got the better of him on the stroke of half-time when he sent Rogic sprawling 20 yards from goal with a rash tackle, earning him a yellow card. The resultant free-kick from Griffiths was heading for the far corner until Mannus got his hands to the ball.

    The points were now effectively sealed and Rogic nearly inflicted further punishment early in the second half with a booming drive that cannoned off the bar with Mannus helpless.

    Both teams made a number of substitutions and the bookings count mounted up as the game looked to be petering out, though Celtic still looked the more threatening team.

    With seven minutes left on the clock, however, Swanson went down in the box under Liam Henderson’s challenge and Thomson pointed to the spot, with Swanson converting.

    And when McLean bundled in a cross from the right six minutes later, suddenly, Celtic had to refocus for the closing seconds, but Christie’s low finish ensured there would be no late nerves for the visitors.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Janko, Toure, O’Connell, Tierney; Brown, Bitton (Henderson 60); Forrest (Christie 71), Rogic, Sinclair; Griffiths (Dembele 55)
    Not Used: Fasan, Izaguirre, Christie, Sviatchenko, McGregor,

    ST JOHNSTONE (4-1-4-1) Mannus; Foster, McKay, Shaugnessy, Easton; Paton; Alston (Craig 54), Wotherspoon (Kane 65), Davidson, Swanson; MacLean
    Not Used: Clark, Gordon, Cummins, McLaren, Comrie

    Website Man of the Match: James Forrest

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