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  • McGregor strikes as Celts maintain unbeaten run

    McGregor strikes as Celts maintain unbeaten run

    By: Tony Connelly on 26 Aug, 2017 17:28

  • Scottish Premiership
    Celtic Park, Glasgow
    Saturday, August 26, 2017

    CELTIC...1
    (McGregor 79)

    St Johnstone...1
    (MacLean 39)

    CALLUM McGregor ensured that Celtic extended their unbeaten domestic run to 53 games after coming off the bench to fire home an equaliser against a combative St Johnstone side. And Brendan Rodgers' side were unfortunate not to come away with all three points, having enjoyed the bulk of possession and chances in the 90 minutes.

    The Hoops had largely dominated the first-half in terms of possession, and Leigh Griffiths, James Forrest and Mikael Lustig all came close to putting the Hoops ahead. However, it was the visitors who took the lead close to half-time after a mistake at the back allowed Steven MacLean to tuck the ball past Craig Gordon from close-range.

    And while Celtic attacked relentlessly throughout the second-half, it took until the 79th minute before McGregor levelled with a precise right-foot shot from just inside the box.

    Brendan Rodgers made two changes to the side which secured Celtic’s place in the UEFA Champions League group stages in midweek for the top of the table clash with St Johnstone. Anthony Ralston started at right-back as Mikael Lustig replaced Kristoffer Ajer in the centre of defence, while Tom Rogic returned to the starting line-up in place of Callum McGregor.

    The match was halted within the first minute and play held up for six minutes after Murray Davidson sustained a head injury after clashing heads with team-mate Aaron Comrie on the edge of the Celtic box. And after lengthy treatment, he had to be stretchered off, to be replaced by Liam Craig

    Celtic’s first opportunity came in the 10th minute when Tom Rogic collected the ball in midfield, skipped past Paul Paton and played the ball out to Forrest on the right. His cutback found Leigh Griffiths who made space with a great first touch, but his shot hit the side-netting.

    Lustig came close to putting the Hoops ahead in the 18th minute when Griffiths’ free kick from the edge of the box picked out the Swedish defender at the back post, only for his header to direct the ball just over the crossbar.

    Forrest’s was next to test Mannus in the St Johnstone goal after 21 minutes. Brown ran across the edge of the box and set up Forrest, who had enough space on the edge of the box to shoot. He directed his shot towards the left-hand corner but Mannus got down to it.

    And Griffiths also came close to scoring 10 minutes before half-time after Kieran Tierney played a perfectly-weighted pass in behind the St Johnston defence, but the striker's shot was blocked on the corner of the six-yard box.

    St Johnstone were then gifted a goal in the 39th minute after Craig Gordon's pass out from the back fell to substitute Liam Craig. His pass found Steven McLean inside the box, and the St Johnstone striker took a touch, turned and tucked the ball away.

    Scott Sinclair almost levelled the scoring on the stroke of half-time, dribbling his way into the box, but Mannus dealt well with the shot.

    Brendan Rodgers made two changes at half-time, with Jonny Hayes coming on for Forrest on the right and Stuart Armstrong replacing Olivier Ntcham. And the Hoops created a plethora of opportunities early in the second half as Sinclair and Rogic persistently troubled the St Johnstone defence with darting runs and some creative dribbling.

    Rogic’s attempt to equalise early in the second half came in the form of a powerful effort from around 25 yards that brushed past the right-hand post, but a late challenge on him by Paul Paton resulted in a free-kick which Leigh Griffiths couldn't direct on target.

    Armstrong looked lively in attack and seven minutes after coming on, he created a great chance for himself, gliding past David Wotherspoon before firing a powerful shot which Mannus tipped over.

    St Johnstone's goalscorer MacLean was lucky to escape a straight red card in the 72nd minute after appearing to throw a punch at Kieran Tierney. Referee, Willie Collum, only issued a yellow card, much to the disbelief of just about everyone inside Celtic Park.

    But Celtic finally got the goal their effort deserved when Callum McGregor, on as a substitute for Anthony Ralston as the Hoops went to a back three, curled a low shot into the bottom right corner.

    Celtic pressed forward in search of the winner and were denied by a combination of Alan Mannus in the St Johnstone goal and the woodwork, with Sinclair, Hayes and Lustig all coming close. But the visitors held out for the point, while the Hoops extended their unbeaten domestic run to 53 games.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Ralston (McGregor 60), Lustig, Bitton, Tierney; Brown, Ntcham (Hayes 45); Forrest (Armstrong 45), Rogic, Sinclair; Griffiths.
    Not Used: De Vries, Ajer, Simunovic, Benyu

    ST JOHNSTONE (5-4-1) Mannus; Foster, Shaughnessy, Anderson, Easton, Comrie; Wotherspoon (Tanser76), Davidson (Craig 7), Paton, O'Halloran (Johnstone 81); MacLean.
    Not Used: Clark, Scougall, Gilchrist, Cummins

    Website Man of the Match: Scott Sinclair

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