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  • Celts stunned as Saints march off with all three points

    Celts stunned as Saints march off with all three points

    By: Martin Dalziel on 04 Mar, 2015 21:51

  • SPFL Premiership
    Celtic Park, Glasgow
    Wednesday, March 4, 2015

    CELTIC...0

    ST JOHNSTONE...1
    (Swanson 54)

    CELTIC fell to their first defeat in 11 domestic games tonight (Wednesday) after St Johnstone left Paradise with a shock 1-0 win.

    The Hoops dominated the first-half and created a string of good goal-scoring chances but the Saints held firm thanks to some brave defending and a collection of fine saves from Alan Mannus in goal before a Danny Swanson wonder strike 10 minutes into the second half gave the visitors an unlikely win on the road.

    Celtic battled back as the clock counted down and had a header from Efe Ambrose cleared off the line but couldn’t find a way past Tommy Wright’s side who saw out the match to head home to Perth with a surprise victory.

    Ronny Deila made two changes to his side following the weekend win over Aberdeen and gave Anthony Stokes his first start since the League Cup semi-final at Hampden ahead of Kris Commons, while Nir Bitton dropped to the bench with Stuart Armstrong coming in.

    Celtic started on the front foot and pushed the visitors back to create a string of early chances.

    Virgil van Dijk sprang the first attack with a long ball over the Saints backline to find Armstrong in space on the right but his first-time shot was blocked. Stokes then curled the rebound towards goal from the left of the area but it went inches wide.

    Steven MacLean had a shot at goal for St Johnstone at the other end but his half-volley went well wide.

    Celtic kept up the pressure with Scott Brown dictating play in midfield and Gary Mackay-Steven always making himself available in attack.

    The winger was the main threat for the Hoops going forward early on and almost gave his side the lead, but Mannus did well in goal to thwart the attacker’s curling effort from the right before getting back up palm away the rebound from Stokes.

    Griffiths looked to exploit the space when it opened up for him 25 yards out but his left-footed shot went narrowly wide. A poor clearance from Mannus then fell to Armstrong who shot from distance but the keeper saved again.

    St Johnstone then won the first corner of the match but Celtic defended well and broke up the pitch through Griffiths. He was cynically hacked down by Danny Swanson who received a yellow card for the offence.

    Another good spell of Celtic pressure ended with a shot from Efe Ambrose inside the box but it sailed over Mannus’ cross bar.

    Wotherspoon proved to be the main protagonist for his side in the opening 45 minutes and he got a shot off from the edge of the Celtic box after Saints stole the ball near the 18-yard line, but his effort was once again straight at Craig Gordon.

    Stokes then won an aerial challenge in midfield which set up Armstrong from distance but Mannus saved the shot again to give Celtic a corner.

    Ambrose got a head on the set-piece but his effort was cleared in the six-yard box before shots from van Dijk and Mackay-Steven were blocked by the Saints defence amid penalty shouts.

    An outstanding piece of skill from Brown drove the Hoops forward again after he beat three St Johnstone players in midfield before winning a Celtic free-kick, but the Hoops couldn’t make anything of the set-piece and the sides went in level at half-time.

    Celtic took off Adam Matthews for the restart and replaced him with Mubarak Wakaso at left-back. The Ghanaian had a positive start and his first touch won a free-kick in a good area in the St Johnstone half which led to a chance for Jason Denayer before he played a good cross in for Mackay-Steven, but St Johnstone defended well.

    The Saints enjoyed the majority of possession in the opening stages of the second half despite Celtic’s good start and took the lead just under 10 minutes in.

    The visitors won a corner on the left which Celtic cleared but the ball fell to Swanson 20 yards out and the midfielder showed no hesitancy to strike the ball first-time and send it fizzing past Gordon and into the back of the net.

    That sparked the Bhoys into life and Stokes tried to bring them level with a shot from just outside the box, but Mannus got down quickly to save again. St Johnstone retained control, however, and passed the ball well in Celtic’s half, especially on the wings.

    James Forrest and Nir Bitton were introduced in place of Mackay-Steven and Stokes and the Celts continued to push for a goal to bring them back into the match, but St Johnstone continued to defend well.

    Forrest, Bitton and Armstrong all tried efforts from distance but Mannus looked like a man who would not be beaten as the match approached its conclusion.

    Johansen had a good shot blocked in the box as the clock ticked down and Celtic won another corner from the play but they couldn’t make the chance count.

    The Hoops had one last go but a failed long ball into the Saints box drifted harmlessly wide and saw the visitors take a surprise three points back up to Perth.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1): Gordon; Matthews (Wakaso 45), Denayer, van Dijk, Ambrose; Brown, Armstrong; Mackay-Steven (Forrest 58), Johansen, Stokes (Bitton 58); Griffiths.
    Not used: Zaluska, Scepovic, Fisher, Henderson.

    ST JOHNSTONE (4-4-2) Mannnus; Mackay, Easton, Anderson, Scobbie; Millar, Wotherspooon, Davidson, O’Halloran (Miller 79); Swanson (Croft 70), MacLean.
    Not used: Banks, Graham, McFadden, Brown, Kane.

    Website man of the match: Scott Brown

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