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  • Frustration as Celts held by Saints

    Frustration as Celts held by Saints

    By: Mark Henderson on 18 Feb, 2018 16:57

  • Scottish Premiership
    Celtic Park, Glasgow
    Sunday, February 18, 2017



    CELTIC were held to a goal-less draw by a dogged St Johnstone side on a frustrating day in Paradise - though the champions did extend their lead at the top of the table to nine points.  

    Less than three days they had seen off Zenit St Petersburg in the UEFA Europa League, Brendan Rodgers’ side lacked their normal rhythm and fluency. And Saints goalkeeper Alan Mannus proved equal to the Hoops’ best attempts on target, most notably Kristoffer Ajer’s early header, and they had to settle for a share of the spoils.  

    Tom Rogic made his long-awaited comeback from injury, having not featured since the Champions League game against Anderlecht on December 5.  

    The Australian internationalist’s welcome return to the side was one of seven changes to the team that dispatched Zenit so impressively in Thursday night’s Europa League last 32 encounter. Cristian Gamboa, Jack Hendry, Calvin Miller, Charly Musonda, Odsonne Edouard and Scott Sinclair were the other players to come in for the champions.  

    In the absence of the suspended Scott Brown, Callum McGregor, who scored a stunning winning goal against Zenit in his 150th appearance for the club, skippered the Celts, capping off a memorable week for the Celtic Youth Academy graduate.

    Despite the alterations, the hosts were soon into their stride, with Mannus forced into action in the fifth minute to push away Ajer’s close-range header from Charly Musonda’s free-kick. McGregor’s inviting low delivery from the left was then narrowly out of reach of Odsonne Edouard in the middle as the Hoops continued to push for the early breakthrough.

    After that initial flurry, however, the Bhoys struggled for penetration in the final third against the well-organised visitors. And on the half-hour mark, the Saints carved out their first chance as David Wotherspoon headed inches over from Blair Alston’s cross.

    Moments later, Richard Foster was off target from distance after Wotherspoon had rolled the ball into his path from a free-kick as the Perth side enjoyed their best spell of the match.

    Sinclair provided some much-needed attacking thrust for the hosts with a purposeful run through the middle which was halted by a foul. From 30 yards out, Edouard curled the resultant free-kick wide.

    Two minutes into the second half, Edouard came close to the opener after more good work from Sinclair. The Englishman raced forward from the halfway line and played in Edouard, but his final effort was blocked and the ball spun into Mannus’ arms.   

    Although the away side threatened, when Foster knocked a dangerous ball across goal with no takers, Brendan Rodgers’ side had upped the tempo and showing greater attacking intent.

    After twisting away from his marker, Musonda had a shot pushed round the post by Mannus. Celtic cleverly worked the resultant corner and McGregor had two shots charged down as the Saints desperately threw men in front of the ball.

    Just after the hour mark, Rogic was withdrawn and replaced by Forrest, with Musonda moving inside to the No.10 role and he had another effort saved by Mannus, this time from a free-kick following a foul on Edouard.

    The Hoops were dominating possession but Tommy Wright’s team still posed a threat on the counter and Kristoffer Ajer had to make a timely tackle to divert Matthew Willock’s cutback to safety.

    Down the other end, Mannus came to his side’s rescue, saving at his near post from Sinclair, while Dembele, who had entered the fray in place of Edouard, headed wide from Miller’s centre.

    Kieran Tierney also came on a substitute in the closing stages, and his precise pass sent Sinclair scampering clear in the box, but somehow no-one was on hand to convert his cutback in the six-yard box.

    And despite further late pressure, Celtic couldn’t find a way through, with attention now turning towards European matters as the champions aim to book their place in the Europa League last 16 in Russia this week against Zenit.  

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) De Vries; Gamboa, Hendry, Ajer, Miller (Tierney 79); Kouassi; Rogic (Forrest 61), McGregor; Musonda, Edouard (Dembele 74), Sinclair
    Not Used: Bain, Simunovic, McInroy, Ralston

    ST JOHNSTONE (4-4-2) Mannus; Shaughnessy, Kerr, Anderson, Foster (Tanser 59); Alston, Miller (Craig 89), Davidson, Wotherspoon; Williams (Willock 65), MacLean
    Not Used: Clark, Johnstone, McLean, Kane

    Website Man of the Match: Kristoffer Ajer


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