St Johnstone 0 Celtic 3: Saints’ unbeaten run halted by Hoops

Dedryck Boyata jumps the highest to make it 2-0.
Dedryck Boyata jumps the highest to make it 2-0.

St Johnstone’s long unbeaten run came to a halt as they lost to Celtic at a chilly McDiarmid Park.

You had to venture back seven matches to the October 17 clash with Partick Thistle to find the Perth side’s last defeat.

However, it isn’t exactly a shock or a disgrace to be beaten by the champions.

Saints created some superb chances and were the better team until the Hoops opened the scoring.

That goal came from Nadir Ciftci on 35 minutes before Dedryck Boyata made it 2-0 four minutes after the break.

Ciftci was on target again on 67 minutes meaning he had doubled his goals tally for the Parkhead club – and it was game over.

Saints welcomed back Steven Anderson after injury, while Brian Easton also returned to the starting line-up after being a sub against Ross County.

That meant Tam Scobbie dropped to the bench, while on-loan Celtic man Darnell Fisher couldn’t play against his parent club.

Ciftci continued up front for the Hoops, with Leigh Griffiths out injured.

Emilio Izaguirre was back in the side, along with midfielders Tom Rogic and James Forrest. Scott Allan and Kieran Tierney dropped to the bench.

There was a minute’s applause in memory of Saints’ Hall of Fame member Willie Coburn before the action got under way.

Tommy Wright’s men made a bright start and almost opened the scoring in under a minute.

Steven MacLean played a neat, chipped pass through to Michael O’Halloran and he raced beyond the Hoops’ backline.

O’Halloran tried to lift the ball over advancing Celtic keeper Craig Gordon but his shot was pushed around the post. The resultant corner reached Joe Shaughnessy at the back post but he couldn’t make proper contact with the ball.

Home fans were left scratching their heads when MacLean angrily claimed he had been stamped on by Boyata but it was the St Johnstone man who ended up getting a talking-to from referee Crawford Allan.

On 25 minutes, Celtic’s Izaguirre became the first player booked for being late with a challenge on David Wotherspoon after the home midfielder had beaten him with some fancy footwork.

The visitors then had a great chance to open the scoring when Ciftci was picked out superbly by Tomas Rogic. He was only 15 yards out and had a clear view of goal but the former Dundee United man shot straight at goalie Alan Mannus.

St Johnstone had been more than holding their own against the champions but suffered a major injury setback on 34 minutes when Millar had to go off to be replaced by Liam Caddis.

As if on cue, Celtic took the lead a minute after the Saints’ made their substitution.

Mikael Lustig hit a long-range strike that was deflected for a corner. Having won the set-piece, Lustig then flicked Callum McGregor’s cross on to Ciftci inside the box.

The Turk did well to control the ball on his thigh before blasting it past Mannus to make it 1-0.

Saints fought to get one back before the break and Davidson, Wotherspoon and then Anderson all had chances.

The best of the lot, though, fell to O’Halloran in the final minute of the half.

Found by a great ball from MacLean, he raced up the left and his pace enabled him to clip the ball beyond the despairing boot of Jozo Simunovic.

He cut in towards goal but, from an angle, curled his right-foot shot wide of Gordon’s far post.

Having started the first period so well, Saints let themselves down by losing a poor second goal just four minutes after the interval.

McGregor took a corner from the right and the ball landed right on the head of Boyata, who nodded unchallenged into the net from close-range to give Mannus no chance.

To their credit, Saints almost got one back immediately when Brian Easton let fly with a strike from 25 yards that crashed against the post.

Rogic then missed a sitter for Celtic after Izaguirre placed a cutback on a plate for him but it was soon 3-0.

With 67 minutes on the clock, Ciftci made it a double for him when he nodded home a cross from Lustig.

Understandly, the home players looked deflated now and the game was closed out by Celtic.

Attendance: 6,418.

St Johnstone: Mannus, Mackay, Anderson, Millar (Caddis 34), Davidson, MacLean (Kane 81), Wotherspoon, Shaughnessy, Easton, Craig. O’Halloran. Subs not used: Clark, Scobbie, Sutton, McKay, Thomson.

Celtic: Gordon, Izaguirre, Simunovic, Ciftci (Allan 89), Armstrong (Commons 72), Rogic (Cole 81), Boyata, Lustig, Johansen, McGregor, Forrest. Subs not used: Bailly, Ambrose, Mackay-Steven, Tierney.

Referee: Crawford Allan.