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  • Boyata roars to help Celts equal Lisbon Lions' record

    Boyata roars to help Celts equal Lisbon Lions' record

    By: Martin Dalziel on 25 Jan, 2017 21:41

  • SPFL Premiership
    Celtic Park
    Wednesday January 25, 2016

    CELTIC...1
    (Boyata 71)

    ST JOHNSTONE...0

    BRENDAN Rodgers’ Celtic etched their names into the history books as they equalled the Lisbon Lions’ 26-game unbeaten start to a domestic season with a 1-0 win over St Johnstone.

    The record, set by Jock Stein’s all-conquering Hoops side of 1966/67, was matched as Dedryck Boyata's goal ensured a 25th victory out of 26 domestic games. The only blip was a 2-2 draw away to Inverness Caley Thistle back in September.

    The decisive goal now gives the Celts a chance to eclipse the Lions’ record when Hearts visit Paradise this Sunday.

    The victory, which now puts the Hoops 22 points clear of their closest rivals at the summit of the SPFL Premiership, also coincided with a historic landmark for Celtic captain Scott Brown, who made his 400th appearance for the club with a trademark commanding display in midfield.

    Brown was one of 10 of players who kept their place in the side following the 3-0 victory over Albion Rovers on Sunday in the Scottish Cup fourth round, while Jozo Simunovic was brought in as a replacement for Mikael Lustig.

    The champions largely dominated an entertaining, if a little frantic, first-half and had the ball in the back of the net inside 10 minutes when Scott Sinclair rose at the back post to nod James Forrest’s clipped cross past Zander Clark, but the ball was judged to have gone out of play before the Scotland winger could get his delivery in.

    The Celts were twice denied on the line in the midst of an end-to-end spell of the action as a curling shot from Stuart Armstrong and a powerful header from Dedryck Boyata were cleared, while Craig Gordon was relieved Danny Swanson hit the post.

    Both teams weathered the frenetic period of action but it was the Hoops who found themselves back on the front foot as half-time approached and they almost scored when Moussa Dembele fired narrowly wide from a Scott Sinclair cutback.

    A similar move again saw Dembele crack an effort over the bar after another driving run and shot from Armstrong had been blocked for a corner. It was the Forrest’s turn to be thwarted by goalkeeper Clark as the winger took aim from 20 yards before half-time as Sinclair was again denied by the visiting defence.

    The Perth side’s resistance was tested straight from the restart but Tommy Wright’s team remained resolute in defence. Their drilled, disciplined tactics allowed Celtic little space in the final third, and any time they did, the ball had to make its way through a sea of blue and white shirts in the box before reaching Clark in goal.

    The Hoops needed a fresh approach and Brendan Rodgers looked to his bench for inspiration, adding Patrick Roberts to the mix in place of Forrest as Brown and Armstrong finally got the first shots on target of the second-half.

    The young Englishman had an almost instant impact, turning two Saints defenders inside-out on the edge of the box at the byline before cutting the ball across the six-yard box but both Dembele and Sinclair couldn’t find the net.

    Boyata then had a header cleared off the line again with 20 minutes left from an Armstrong corner, but a second chance from an identical set-piece saw the 26-year-old out-jump Steven Anderson to power an unstoppable header past Clark to finally give the champions the well-deserved lead with 20 minutes left.

    It was the Belgian defender's first goal of the season in only his third appearance under Brendan Rodgers but was a mark of the defender’s confidence and willingness to prove himself at Paradise.

    St Johnstone instantly switched their approach, throwing on two attackers and it brought a string of corners for the visitors but the Hoops survived the danger, despite Brown ending up in his own net after a strong challenge at one of the set-pieces.

    Leigh Griffiths reinforced Celtic’s strength up front, replacing Dembele while Erik Sviatchenko took the impressive Cristian Gamboa’s place in defence late on, and the Dane’s presence was a calming influence at the back.

    St Johnstone had one final throw of the dice with a late free-kick fired into Celtic territory but Sviatchenko was there to clear the danger and secure an historic win for Brendan Rodgers’ Hoops on a special night for the team and the captain.

    Only Hearts stand in the champions’ way now from surpassing the record set by Jock Stein’s team as the league games continue to come fast and furious for the Celts.

    CELTIC (4-1-2-3) Gordon; Gamboa (Sviatchenko 83), Simunovic, Boyata, Tierney; Bitton; Armstrong, Brown; Forrest (Roberts 63), Dembele (Griffiths75), Sinclair.
    Not used: De Vries, Izaguirre, Mackay-Steven, , McGregor

    ST JOHNSTONE (4-4-2) Clark; Watson, Anderson, Shaughnessy, Scobbie; Wotherspoon (Alston 59), Paton, Millar, Craig; Kane (MacLean 79), Swanson (Cummins 79).
    Not used: Mannus, Davidson, Easton, Thomson

    Website man of the match: Dedryck Boyata

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