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  • Brown at the double as Celts sweep aside Saints

    Brown at the double as Celts sweep aside Saints

    By: Mark Henderson on 14 Dec, 2014 15:04

  • Scottish Premiership
    Celtic Park, Glasgow
    Sunday, December 14, 2016

    CELTIC...4
    (Brown 4, 19 Forrest 15, Stokes 67)

    ST MIRREN...1
    (Kelly 9)

    SCOTT Brown’s first-half brace helped Celtic cruise to dominant 4-1 victory over St Mirren and make it eight league wins on the spin.

    The captain struck twice either side of Sean Kelly’s reply for the visitors, before James Forrest’s fine finish gave the Hoops some breathing space.

    Ronny Deila’s men tore the struggling Saints apart time and time again but had to wait until the 67th minute to find the net again as Anthony Stokes swept home after good work from Stefan Johansen.

    The win could have been more emphatic but it was enough to send the champions six points clear at the Scottish Premiership summit and well-placed for the rest of the festive calendar.

    Brown returned to the starting XI after being rested for Thursday night’s UEFA Europa League tie away to Dinamo Zagreb.

    Forrest and John Guidetti, who was ineligible for the group stages of the competition, were also restored to the side.

    Callum McGregor, Kris Commons and Stefan Scepovic dropped out and were named among the substitutes.

    The visitors had parted company with manager Tommy Craig earlier in the week following a poor start to the season, with veteran Gary Teale taking temporary charge in the dugout.

    But they could have upset the script by taking the lead inside the opening minute. John McGinn dispossessed Efe Ambrose on the left and picked out the unmarked Kenny McLean in the middle but the midfielder missed his kick.

    Stung into action, Celtic made the breakthrough three minutes later. Stokes’ cross from the left deflected off a St Mirren defender into Brown’s path and he buried a shot beyond Marc Ridgers.

    However, the Paisley side were showing some spirit and carved out another chance, which was almost a mirror of their opportunity in the first minute.

    Again McGinn got free down the left and crossed for McLean. This time he found the net but the offside flag cut short his celebrations.

    It wasn’t long before they drew level, however. A free-kick was flighted in from the left, Jim Goodwin knocked the ball back across goal and Sean Kelly volleyed in via the post.

    It had been open start to the game but this was signal for Celtic to take control. Stokes’ rasping, angled effort forced Ridgers into a low save at his near post. He couldn’t hold the shot as Guidetti pursed the rebound but the ball was scrambled clear.

    But the keeper was left helpless as Forrest restored the lead. Guidetti’s terrific touch from a long pass allowed him to control the ball and play in the winger, who drilled a shot inside the far post.

    And Ridgers was quickly picking the ball back out of the net as Brown bagged his brace. Forrest turned provider, finding the 29-year-old on the edge of the area and his first-time finish left the St Mirren shot-stopper stranded.

    Brown came close again as he threatened to complete a treble before the 20-minute mark as St Mirren struggled to stem the tide.

    The impressive Forrest had a shot blocked in the box from a corner, causing a melee. Guidetti and Ambrose smashed shots back into the mix but somehow the Saints survived.

    Forrest was on fire, giving his opposite number Kelly a torrid time with his pace and skill. And after twisting and turning again in the box, he could have pulled the trigger but unselfishly squared the ball. There were no takers, however.

    Stokes and Johansen had efforts saved at the near post and Nir Bitton’s dangerous flick-on from Stokes’ corner was missed by everyone.

    And as the interval approached the chances kept coming. Izaguirre’s cutback was inches away from Johansen and Guidetti was crowded out after being sent scampering clear.

    A last-ditch challenge from Jeroen Tesselaar denied Johansen and then Norwegian dragged a shot wide after a blistering Celtic breakaway.

    And the Hoops’ frustration at not adding to their tally was underlined on the stroke of half-time as Guidetti kicked the post after he had been thwarted by Ridgers.

    Former Celtic favourite Shunsuke Nakamura was presented to the crowd during the break, and the Japanese genius received a rousing reception on his return to Paradise, telling the crowd his favourite goal had been his memorable strike from distance against Rangers.

    The pattern of play continued after the restart as the St Mirren goal remained under siege. Stokes had a shot deflected over to get the second-half barrage underway.

    Ridgers then saved from Izaguirre, before Stokes converted Guidetti’s cross-shot. This time, the offside flag came to the Buddies’ rescue.

    A foul on Guidetti on edge of the box gave Stokes the chance from the set-piece and his effort grazed the post.

    Hurt by the challenge, though, the Swede was unable to continue and he was replaced by Scepovic, who nearly found the net with his first touch, almost beating Ridgers with an audacious, dipping half-volley from 35 yards.

    Goal number four finally arrived midway through the half. Johansen was rewarded for his relentless pressing by winning back possession in the final third. He teed-up Stokes in the box, who nonchalantly stroked home.

    Aside from some forays forward from right-back Jason Naismith, it was one-way traffic all the way to full-time.

    The best of the late chances fell to Scepovic, who could have ended the match with a hat-trick. On two occasions, he was inches wide with only Ridgers to beat, and as the clock ticked down his volley cannoned off the inside of the post and stayed out.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Matthews, Ambrose, van Dijk, Izaguirre; Brown, Bitton (Henderson 69); Forrest (McGregor 46) Johansen, Stokes; Guidetti (Scepovic 59).
    Not Used: Zaluska, Commons, Griffiths, Fisher

    ST MIRREN (4-1-4-1) Ridgers; Naismith, McAusland, Tesselaar Kelly,; Goodwin; Reilly (Marwood 71) Osbourne (Mallan 81), McLean, McGinn; Thompson (Ball 75).
    Subs: Kello, Drury, Caldwell, Morgan

    Website Man of the Match: Scott Brown

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