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  • Roberts at the double as unbeaten Celts march on

    Roberts at the double as unbeaten Celts march on

    By: Mark Henderson on 06 May, 2017 17:00

  • Scottish Premiership
    Celtic Park, Glasgow
    Saturday, May 6, 2017

    (Roberts 47, 62 Boyata 52, McGregor 72)

    (MacLean 49)

    PATRICK Roberts’ deadly double helped Celtic cruise to a convincing 4-1 victory over St Johnstone and stretch their unbeaten domestic run this season to 43 games.

    After the champions had dominated the opening 45 minutes, they broke the deadlock early in the second half through Roberts’ accurate finish.

    Although Steven MacLean quickly equalised, Dedryck Boyata thumped in a header from Leigh Griffiths’ corner to put the Bhoys back in charge.

    Roberts bundled home from close range after good supply work from Scott Sinclair to make it 3-1 and Callum McGregor sealed the spoils with a stunning individual effort to continue his fantastic run of form.

    After another sparkling showing, the Hoops are now only one victory away from reaching a century of points, with three league games remaining, before they tackle the Scottish Cup final against Aberdeen on May 27, where they will attempt to complete a domestic clean sweep.  

    Teenagers Mikey Johnston and Anthony Ralston both started for the Bhoys as Brendan Rodgers made four changes to the team which trounced Rangers 5-1 last week at Ibrox.

    It was Johnston’s competitive debut for the Bhoys, while Ralston came in for his first senior start, having made two substitute appearances for the first team.

    Ralston replaced Mikael Lustig at right-back and Johnston started in place of Sinclair on the left of an attacking trident behind lone striker Griffiths. Elsewhere, Nir Bitton and Tom Rogic were restored to the team, with McGregor and the suspended Scott Brown dropping out. Stuart Armstrong captained the side.

    It only took the Hoops 40 seconds to register their first shot on target as Rogic brought out a low save from Zander Clark with a low drive from 25 yards. The tone of the game had been set, with the home side firmly on the front foot and Tommy Wright’s team hoping to soak up the pressure and hit on the break.  

    But the away side were almost undone by a swift Celtic counter-attack as Rogic’s deft flick released Roberts. He picked out Griffiths down the right but several back-tracking Saints defenders prevented Rogic from reaching the striker’s delivery in the middle.  

    Danny Swanson curled a free-kick over at the other end after Dedryck Boyata had been penalised for a foul, but the Bhoys quickly resumed the offensive as Rogic, at the centre of all Celtic’s creative play, called Clark into action with a rasping effort after being picked out by Bitton.

    Johnston certainly wasn’t looking fazed on his big day and he was next to try his luck, following some nimble footwork from Rogic, though Clark was equal to the task. The 18-year-old then showed a delightful piece of skill to dance away from his marker only to drag his final effort wide.

    Making his start at Celtic Park since December 17, Rogic looked completely revitalised after his long injury lay-off as he continued to cause the visitors’ defence consternation with his movement, skill and vision.

    And the the Australian internationalist wasn’t far away after he cleverly engineered some space from Griffiths’ corner, despite the close attentions of Joe Shaughnessy.   

    Undeterred, Celtic maintained their assault on the Saints’ goal. Armstrong had a couple of efforts from distance, Ralston’s inviting low centre somehow evaded everyone and Kieran Tierney shot wide.

    The Celts did suffer a scare just before the break when Blair Alston blasted over from close-range following Liam Craig’s knock-down. Two minutes into the second half, however, they opened the scoring.

    Johnston was the architect, evading one challenge down the right and feeding Roberts, who took a touch before sweeping the ball into the far corner from 20 yards beyond Clark.       

    Moments later, however, the Perth outfit restored parity.  Ricky Foster swung in a cross from the right and, although Craig Gordon saved brilliantly from Graham Cummins’ header, the loose ball was eventually stabbed home by MacLean.

    Stung back into action, back came the Bhoys, and they only needed three minutes to restore their lead as Boyata bulleted home a header from Griffiths’ corner.

    Just before the hour-mark, Scott Sinclair was introduced for Johnston, who received a well-deserved round of applause after acquitting himself excellently on his bow.

    And Sinclair was soon in the thick of the action, blasting over after a wonderful one-two with Griffiths, while Armstrong was inches wide from the edge of the area.

    Number three soon arrived. Clark could only parry Griffiths’ powerful drive and when Sinclair cut the loose ball back from the byline, Roberts was on hand to apply the finish.

    It was now a matter of how many Celtic would score as the game opened up, with Clark thwarting Sinclair and the winger sending the rebound wide.

    And another substitute sealed the points with a sensational solo effort. McGregor had only been on the field for 60 seconds when he embarked on a mazy run from the right. Showing terrific technique, he left a number of opponents trailing his wake and then had the composure to bury a shot past Clark.

    And only some last-ditch defending prevented Brendan Rodgers’ side from adding to their tally as the clock ticked down on another excellent home performance.  

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Ralston, Simunovic, Boyata, Tierney; Bitton, Armstrong; Roberts (Forrest 83), Rogic (McGregor 70), Johnston (Sinclair 57); Griffiths
    Not Used: de Vries, Kolo, Gamboa, Henderson

    ST JOHNSTONE (4-4-2 Clark; Foster, Anderson, Shaugnessy, Easton; Alston (Wotherspoon 69), Paton, Craig, Swanson (Kane 80); MacLean, Cummins (Thomson 61)
    Not Used: Mannus, Scobbie, Smith, Hurst

    Website Man of the Match: Tom Rogic

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