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  • Honours even after entertaining contest in Perth

    Honours even after entertaining contest in Perth

    By: Martin Dalziel on 15 May, 2015 21:45

  • SPFL Premiership
    McDiarmid Park, Perth
    Friday, May 15, 2015

    ST JOHNSTONE...0

    CELTIC...0

    CELTIC played out a gripping but goal-less draw with St Johnstone tonight as the Hoops maintained their unbeaten record this season at McDiarmid Park.

    Both teams played with a high tempo which provided the crowd with an entertaining spectacle but neither side could find the killer pass or touch to grab a winner.

    Lukasz Zaluska was a stand-out for the Bhoys, particularly in the first half when his saves kept the champions in the match but the Celts couldn’t build on his good work to gather three points.

    With the league title already wrapped up, Ronny Deila took the opportunity to shuffle his pack and introduce some fresh faces to the starting line-up. Most notable among the six changes was the inclusion of 17-year-old Kieran Tierney, who made his full debut for the Hoops after previously making a substitute appearance against Dundee at the end of April.

    Zaluska also made his first appearance since replacing Craig Gordon in the Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden and he emerged as the hero in what panned out to be an exciting first-half.

    St Johnstone started the match confidently and Michael O’Halloran tested Zaluska with an early low cross to the six yard box but the Polish shot-stopper gathered comfortably.

    Celtic had early chances as well, the best of them falling to Leigh Griffiths after Efe Ambrose rose well to flick on Stuart Armstrong’s corner, but Alan Mannus saved on the line.

    Zaluska was called into action again after Murray Davidson poked a shot at goal which looked bound for the back of the net but the Celtic keeper got a strong hand to the effort at full stretch.

    The hosts then passed up a string of guilt-edged chances to take the lead. The first fell to Swanson who wasted a free header in the box after a cross in from the right before Ambrose was forced to clear off the line after Swanson’s corner was headed down in the box.

    O’Halloran also had a free header on 23 minutes but he too misjudged his effort. The striker was guilty again of passing up a goalscoring chance when he capitalised on a slip from Ambrose to burst free into the box on 27 minutes but Zaluska rushed out his box and made a solid stop.

    Celtic's best chance after that came from Kris Commons who gathered the ball in space for the first time 20 yards out on 33 minutes but he couldn’t find the target.

    Zaluska then denied the home side again when he saved a shot from Swanson in the box and got to his feet again to block Davidson’s rebound at the near post with 10 minutes left before half-time.

    Scott Brown then saw a header cleared off the line on 40 minutes before he set Griffiths free with a brilliant ball over the top but the striker was forced wide and his cut-back to Commons in the area fell behind the attacker.

    Charlie Mulgrew replaced Jason Denayer in defence for the start of the second-half, marking the Scotland internationalist’s first appearance since a 1-0 win over Partick Thistle at Celtic Park on December 3 last year.

    But it was the home side who carved out the first opening when Tom Scobbie won a free header in the box but the shot was palmed away by Zaluska.

    Celtic began to enjoy more possession on the hour mark and they tried to take the sting out of the game by playing patiently and waiting for an opening.

    Gaps then began to appear in the Saints defence, allowing Armstrong to thread a neat ball in to Brown to shoot but the skipper’s effort went over. The lively James Forrest then used his pace to beat Brian Easton on the wing and play a ball into the box but Commons couldn’t get on the end of the cross.

    Celtic were dangerous on the break, though, and almost caught the Perth side out with a lightening quick counter-attack but Griffiths’ final pass was cleared before Commons could reach it.

    Tierney’s night came to an end on 67 minutes when he was replaced by Emilio Izaguirre and the Bhoys almost found the opener immediately after when Mulgrew forced Mannus into a goal-line stop after Armstrong’s accurate free-kick.

    The match drew to a tense finish with both teams throwing men forward in search of what would most likely be a winner, leaving space at the back.

    O’Halloran called Zaluska into action again with a testing shot from inside the area after getting round Matthews but the Hoops keeper was equal to the effort.

    Celtic then had Izaguirre to thank when the Honduran blocked a shot from Anderson on the line after a Saints corner.

    The Hoops should have then sealed the win when they hooked the ball clear from the corner to set Forrest scampering free of the home defence and clear on goal with just minutes left.

    The winger rounded Scobbie and did the same to Mannus but he seemed to stumble as he aimed his shot which forced the ball wide with the goal gaping.

    St Johnstone made their final change as they too chased the winner by introducing Simon Lappin for the spritely Swanson and they almost got it when Davidson rattled a shot off Zaluska’s post but the Hoops survived to claim a share of the spoils.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Zaluska; Matthews, Ambrose, Denayer (Mulgrew 46), Tierney (Izaguirre 67); Brown, Armstrong; Forrest, Commons (Scepovic 70), Mackay-Steven; Griffiths
    Not used: Fasan, Guidetti, Rogic, Fisher

    ST JOHNSTONE: Mannus; Scobbie, Anderson, Millar , MacLean (McFadden 73); Wotherspoon, Swanson (Lappin 86), Davidson, Miller (Caddis 69); Easton, O’Halloran
    Not used: Banks, Wright, Graham, Kane

    Website man of the match: Lukasz Zaluska

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