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  • Ciftci brace helps Celts see off Saints

    Ciftci brace helps Celts see off Saints

    By: Mark Henderson on 13 Dec, 2015 14:36

  • Scottish Premiership
    McDiarmid Park, Perth
    Sunday, December 13, 2015


    (Ciftci 35, 67,  Boyata 49)

    NADIR Ciftci’s deadly double helped Celtic overcome a stubborn St Johnstone 3-0 at McDiarmid Park to restore their lead at the top of the table back to four points,

    After both sides had come close to opening the scoring in freezing conditions in Perth, the Hoops hit-man lashed in from Callum McGregor’s corner to put the Bhoys in front before the interval.

    Dedryck Boyata headed powerfully home from another McGregor corner early  in the second half to put the champions in charge.

    And Ciftci sealed the victory in the second half, converting from Mikael Lustig’s pinpoint cross, ensuring Ronny Deila’s side could see out the closing stages in comfort.

    The win cements Celtic’s position at the league summit, and they still hold a game in hand over second-placed Aberdeen.

    The manager had made three changes to the team that fought back to draw with Fenerbahce in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday night, with Emilio Izaguirre, James Forrest and Tom Rogic coming into the starting XI at the expense of Kieran Tierney, Nir Bitton and Scott Allan.

    St Johnstone came into the game on the back of a seven-game unbeaten run, and they were full of vigour and confidence straight from the kick off, carving out a golden chance inside the opening 60 seconds.

    Steven MacLean’s lofted pass put Michael O’Halloran in the clear but Craig Gordon came to Celtic’s rescue, blocking the in-form forward’s shot, with the loose ball going behind.

    The resultant corner was won at the far post by Joe Shaughnessy but his header took a touch off Murray Davidson, allowing Gordon to gratefully scoop the ball up.

    Rogic replied for the Bhoys in the seventh minute with low attempt from distance, having cut inside onto his favoured left foot, but it was straight at Alan Mannus.

    Liam Craig tried his luck from distance, before Celtic fashioned their first meaningful chance in the 27th minute with a slick passing move.

    After receiving a pass from McGregor, Rogic turned his man before sending a delightful reverse ball through for Ciftci. Although the striker hit the target, Mannus managed to divert his low effort round the post.

    And 10 minutes before the interval, the Hoops broke the deadlock. After Lustig’s long-range shot had been deflected wide, McGregor’s corner fell for Ciftci at the far post. He instantly controlled the ball, before slamming home.

    Buoyed by their goal, Celtic went in search for a quick-fire second and Mannus had to be alert to push Boyata’s header away from Stuart Armstrong’s corner.

    But Tommy Wright’s men mounted a spirited response to going behind as they pressed for an equaliser before half-time - Craig shot over, Gordon saved from Murray Davidson, Steven Anderson headed wide and then O’Halloran failed to find the target after speeding away from Jozo Simunovic.

    However, the visitors held firm, giving them a precious lead for the start of the second period, one they swiftly doubled. Again the goal came from a set-piece, with McGregor’s corner being met by Boyata who bulleted a header beyond Mannus.

    There was another good reply from the hosts, with Brian Easton sending a thunderous shot from 30 yards crashing off the post – but Celtic were now looking increasingly menacing when they ventured forward.

    Rogic had a golden chance to find the net after Izaguirre had picked him out from the byline but he failed to make a clean connection.

    Dave Mackay looped a header wide from 18 yards, before Celtic threatened again from a corner as Forrest and Armstrong both had shots blocked, with the ball ricocheting around the box. Another corner was the eventual result.

    Midway through the half, Ronny Deila’s men made it 3-0. Lustig overlapped on the right and delivered a delightful delivery, leaving Ciftci with the simple task of heading in from close range.

    Celtic ended the contest playing with real confidence, spraying the passes  around the pitch, and Forrest , Commons and McGregor had further attempts to increase their tally as the clock ticked down.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Lustig, Boyata, Simunovic, Izaguirre; McGregor, Johansen; Forrest, Rogic (Cole 81), Armstrong (Commons 71); Ciftci (Allan 89)
    Not Used: Bailly, Ambrose, Tierney, Mackay-Steven

    ST JOHNSTONE (4-4-2) Mannus; Shaughnessy, Mackay, Anderson, Easton; Wotherspoon, Millar (Caddis  34), Davidson, Craig; O’Halloran, MacLean (Kane 81)
    Not Used: Clark, Scobbie, Sutton, McKay, Thomson

    Website Man of the Match: Callum McGregor

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