St Johnstone will hope it is the best of three in their trio of clashes with Celtic after losing match one last night.
Tommy Wright’s team face the Hoops back at McDiarmid Park on Sunday in another Premiership match before they go head to head again in the William Hill Scottish Cup on February 10, with a league trip to Hamilton also squeezed in next Wednesday night.
Unfortunately for Saints, they are one down with two to go after “Made in Scotland” goals from international duo Callum McGregor and Ryan Christie moved the hosts six points clear at the top.
After some solid defending from Saints, Celtic finally got the breakthrough on 54 minutes when McGregor found the net with a side-footed shot from just outside the penalty area.
The home fans had to wait just another minute to see Ryan Christie lift a beautiful angled shot over Saints goalkeeper Zander Clark to make it 2-0.
This was better than they produced against Hearts at Tynecastle on Saturday but again they didn’t show much in attack, other than some pacy runs from Michael O’Halloran.
The visitors had made four changes to the team that started the two-goal loss in Edinburgh.
There were no places for Liam Gordon, Ross Callachan, Matty Kennedy or Tony Watt. That left room for Blair Alston, David Wotherspoon, Danny Swanson and Michael O’Halloran, his first start since his return to Saints. New signing Niall Keown was among the subs.
The Hoops were looking to put clear blue water between themselves and chasing duo Rangers and Kilmarnock.
As for the Perth men, should they were seaching for a win that would take them back ahead of the Jam Tarts into fifth spot after being leapfrogged at the weekend.
Following the somewhat flamboyant pre-match Parkhead light show, the actual game eventually got under way.
On a bitterly cold night in the east end of Glasgow, the fixture didn’t warm up until the hosts won a freekick at the edge of the box on 13 minutes.
James Forrest was felled by St Johnstone midfielder Murray Davidson and up stepped Christie to take it. His curled left-foot shot just missed Clark’s right-hand post.
Saints were doing a decent job of containing the Celts, who were dominating the ball as you would expect. However, some slackness around their own box let in Oli Burke, whose strike was deflected for a corner.
A brilliant save by St Johnstone number one Clark had even the home fans applauding in appreciation on 27 minutes. The big man dived to his left to palm away a point-blank header from Scott Sinclair to show once again why he deserves a Scotland squad call-up.
On 31 minutes, Christie was booked for simulation before Forrest “won” a corner with a shot that didn’t touch any Saints player on its way out.
Celtic were knocking on the door and Burke sent a decent effort just past the post from just outside the area then Scott Brown blasted over from 20 yards.
O’Halloran had shown in the goalless first half that he had the pace to trouble the Hoops at the back and Saints looked to get him up and running again after the break.
The visitors were much better organised at the back than they had been against Hearts but the backline was finally breached on 54 minutes.
McGregor was played in by Mikael Lustig’s pass and side-footed his shot home from just outside the box.
Just two minutes later it was 2-0 as the Perth resistance was broken again.
It was a lovely finish from Christie, who floated the ball at an angle over the head of Clark. Lustig played his part in this one, too, playing the pass to the Scotland international.
Saints made a double substitution on 64 minutes, bringing on Watt and Callachan for O’Halloran and Swanson.
The Hoops swapped Odsonne Edouard for Burke just a few minutes later then Clark easily held a freekick chipped in by Sinclair.
The hosts were comfortable and took the opportunity to give new signing Timothy Weah the final quarter of an hour.
With almost his first touch, Weah brought a save out of Clark with a low strike from distance.
The goalie came to his team’s rescue again six minutes from time when he leapt to keep out an effort from McGregor.
Celtic: Bain, Izaguirre, Simunovic, Brown, Sinclair (Weah 74), Christie (Bitton 81), Lustig, Burke (Edouard 68), Ajer, McGregor, Forrest. Subs not used: Gordon, Hayes, Henderson, Johnston.
St Johnstone: Clark, Tanser, Alston (Kennedy 80), Shaughnessy, Davidson, Wotherspoon, Swanson (Callachan 64), Kerr, O’Halloran (Watt 64), Foster, Craig. Subs not used: Hurst, Hendry, Gordon, Keown.
Referee: Greg Aitken.