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  • Champions kick off title defence with a win

    Champions kick off title defence with a win

    By: Martin Dalziel on 13 Aug, 2014 21:53

  • Scottish Premiership

    St Johnstone v Celtic

    Wednesday, August 13, 2014

    McDiarmid Park

     

    Celtic...3

    Stokes 55, Bitton 76, McGergor 85

    St Johnstone...0

    CELTIC eased past St Johnstone in Perth with a confident 3-0 win in the opening game of the season.

    A well-taken goal from Anthony Stokes early in the second half was added to by a Nir Bitton penalty and a Callum McGregor shot five minutes before the end to set the Hoops running for the new campaign.

    Good play from James Forrest and Anthony Stokes carved out an early chance for the Hoops but the final ball from the Irish internationalist was too heavy for the speedy winger and Alan Mannus gathered in the Saints box for an early touch of the ball.

    A determined run from Forrest created an opportunity for Celtic down the left with the Scotland star setting Emilio Izaguirre free. His cross was blocked and fell to Bitton on the edge of the Saints box. He controlled well but his shot was blocked and the move broke down.

    Izaguirre was the architect again down the left flank but his cross into the Saints penalty area missed Stokes’ darting run and St Johnstone breathed easy.

    Forrest soon got the first shot of the match away when he collected a well-placed through ball from Kris Commons. The winger turned inside Tom Scobbie in the box but dragged his left-footed shot just past the near post.

    The Bhoys won the first corner of the match after good work by Matthews down the right. Commons played a zipped ball into the box but the cross missed both Bitton and the on-running Virgil van Dijk.

    St Johnstone were hemmed in but looked to hit Celtic on the break and a quick counter-attack from the home side called Craig Gordon into action for the first time midway through the first half.

    The Scotland keeper got a strong hand to Steven MacLean’s stinging effort and pushed it out the box for the Celtic defence to regroup.

    Good play on the edge of the St Johnstone penalty area won the Hoops a free kick in a dangerous area 22 yards out. Stokes stood over the ball and curved a free-kick over the wall but the shot went wide of Mannus’ far post.

    The first half ended with a period of pressure from the Scottish Cup holders but Celtic stood strong and both teams went in for half time with the game goal-less.

    Tommy Wright replaced Liam Caddis with David Wotherspoon for the start of the second half as Saints came out the blocks flying.

    Stefan Johansen was booked for a foul before MacLean pulled a shot just wide as the home side pinned Celtic back. Lee Croft also pulled the trigger from just outside the box, which brought a good block out of van Dijk.

    Celtic then pushed back against the wave of St Johnstone attacks and took the lead on 55 minutes through tenacious play from Commons.

    His tackle on the edge of the Saints box won the ball which fell kindly for Stokes. The Irish hitman controlled the bobbling ball coolly, before rounding Mannus and slotting home with his right foot.

    Commons then won a free kick 25 yards out following the restart after Dave Mackay pulled him down outside the box. The Saints captain was booked for the challenge but van Dijk’s shot from the set-play hit a wall of blue.

    Celtic pressed on and went near again with a snap shot from McGregor but the winger’s effort went wide.

    Ronny Deila then switched James Forrest for Derk Boerrigter and St Johnstone changed Michael O’Halloran for Adam Morgan.

    The home side were then left furious when referee John Beaton waved claims for a penalty away following a van Dijk challenge on Mackay.

    Recent Celtic signing Jo Inge Berget then replaced Commons as Celtic went on the hunt for a second goal. The substitute was fouled shortly after coming on while driving towards the St Johnstone box.

    Wotherspoon was booked for the challenge and the decision clearly irked the Saints players who surrounded the referee.

    The home side’s captain then personified that frustration when he saw red on 76 minutes for a foul on Boerrigter in the area which led to a Celtic penalty.

    Nir Bitton stepped up to the spot and calmly slotted the ball down the middle to put the Hoops 2-0 up.

    Celtic took advantage of the extra man and stretched St Johnstone all over the pitch. The Hoops passed calmly and were then three goals up after good work on the edge of the box.

    A clever pass from Adam Matthews from the right set up McGregor who dropped his shoulder before hitting a low shot at Mannus, who let the ball slip under him and trickle over the line to make it 3-0 five minutes from the end.

    The Bhoys were then playing with confidence and continued to attack the St Johnstone goal with shots but were unlucky not to find a fourth. The final whistle signalled a Celtic victory and a winning Premiership start for Ronny Deila.

     

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon, Matthews, Izaguirre, Van Dijk, Lustig, Bitton, Johansen, Stokes (Kayal 74), Commons (Berget 69), McGregor, Forrest (Boerrigter 60).

    Subs not used: Zaluska, Ambrose, Pukki, Denayer.

    St JOHNSTONE: Mannus, Mackay, Scobbie, Anderson, Millar, McDonald (Miller 78), MacLean, Caddis (Wotherspoon 45), Croft, Easton, O’Halloran (Morgan 60).

    Subs not used: Banks, Wright, Brown, Kane.

    Website man of the match: Callum McGregor

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