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  • Battling Bhoys go top with win over St Johnstone

    Battling Bhoys go top with win over St Johnstone

    By: Martin Dalziel on 29 Aug, 2015 17:00

  • SPFL Premiership
    Celtic Park, Glasgow
    Saturday, May 29, 2015

    (Griffiths 18’, Rogic 44’, Mulgrew 67’)

    (Boyata [O.G] 11’)

    A HARD-FOUGHT but ultimately deserved 3-1 victory over St Johnstone saw Celtic retain their unbeaten run in the SPFL Premiership and get back to winning ways after Tuesday’s disappointment.

    A well-drilled Saints side took an early lead through Dedryck Boyata’s own goal and made life difficult for the champions all afternoon, but goals from Leigh Griffiths, Tom Rogic and second-half substitute Charlie Mulgrew eventually secured the victory for Ronny Deila’s side.

    Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon was forced into a trio of stunning late saves to keep the Bhoys on top and his efforts ultimately helped the champions go to the summit of the league for the first time this season after Hearts were beaten 3-2 by Hamilton Accies.

    Four changes were made to the team following Tuesday’s exertions in Sweden, with Emilio Izaguirre returning at left-back and the entire attacking midfield line refreshed for the visit of the Saints with Kris Commons, Rogic and Gary Mackay-Steven replacing James Forrest, Stefan Johansen and Stuart Armstrong.

    Celtic began the game in enterprising fashion but St Johnstone stunned the home crowd when took the lead on 11 minutes after a slice of bad luck saw Boyata put the ball into his own net.

    The goal came after Michael O’Halloran took on Izaguirre down the Celtic left and squeezed in a cross, which Craig Gordon looked to have covered but the ball slipped under his body and bounced off the Belgian defender into the empty net.

    The champions rallied and got back on level terms on 18 minutes through Leigh Griffiths’ eighth goal of the season when the striker hit a swerving effort which skimmed off Tom Scobbie and into the net.

    As half-time approached, the game was stopped for a period when Izaguirre suffered a head knock while defending a cross at the back post but he was okay to stay on. The Honduran then almost set-up Griffiths for Celtic to take the lead but the striker’s header hit the side-netting shortly before half-time.

    However, the Hoops did go in front just before the interval, and it was a goal worth waiting for after Rogic skipped his way past two challenges in the box before he lashed a powerful right-foot shot beyond Mannus to put the champions 2-1 up at the break.

    After new loan signing Tyler Blackett was paraded in front of the home support at the interval, Celtic went back on the hunt for more goals to kill the game.

    A 10-minute period of solid Celtic possession characterised the start of the second-half, but the Bhoys were forced into a change when Hoops skipper Brown came off for Charlie Mulgrew just before the hour mark.

    The switch didn’t impact Celtic's attacking flow, however, and they went close to finding a third when Rogic let fly from 25 yards out, but his effort whistled wide.

    Credit was due to St Johnstone, who continued to snap at the heels of the Celtic midfielders and striker, limiting their time on the ball, but the champions were not to be denied a third and it came through substitute Mulgrew after Commons’ clever shot from inside the box was brilliantly tipped wide for a corner by Mannus.

    Commons took the set-piece quickly and Mulgrew bravely stuck his head in to connect with the ball after Van Dijk had knocked it into the six-yard box.

    Tommy Wright’s side were not out, however, and they tested the Celtic defence with a string of corners which the champions struggled to clear as the game drew to its conclusion.

    Saints striker John Sutton had the best chance from those set-plays when the ball broke to him six yards out but his volley on the turn clipped the bar and went out for a goal-kick.

    Scott Allan made his home debut with just over 10 minutes left and he went close twice, once with a left-footed shot from inside the area before sending a drive over the bar in stoppage time.

    A late St Johnstone free-kick gave Celtic cause for concern but Gordon palmed Liam Craig’s curling effort wide before the Celts keeper pulled off a remarkable double save on his goal-line with seconds left to secure the points for the champions.

    Celtic (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Janko, Boyata, van Dijk, Izaguirre; Brown (Mulgrew 59), Bitton (McGregor 87); Commons (Allan 77), Rogic, Mackay-Steven; Griffiths.
    Not used: Bailly, Ambrose, Forrest, Stokes

    ST JOHNSTONE (4-4-1-1) Mannus; Shaughnessy, Mackay, Scobbie, Easton; O’Halloran, Millar, Davidson (Craig 46), Wotherspoon; MacLean (Sutton 68); Cummins (Kane 80)
    Not used: Clark, Lappin, McKay, Caddis

    Website man of the match: Tom Rogic

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