• Mon. Mar 4th, 2024

St J’stone 1 – 3 Celtic


Dec 3, 2023

Two stunning strikes helped Scottish Premiership leaders Celtic come from behind to beat gutsy St Johnstone 3-1 at McDiarmid Park.

The hosts took advantage of the Bhoys’ Champions League exit-induced malaise with a scrappy opener from Diallang Jaiyesimi five minutes before the break.

But Brendan Rodgers’ men improved in the second half and got themselves out of trouble when captain Callum McGregor smashed home a daisy-cutter from the edge of the box to level.

Matt O’Riley hit the sweetest of strikes to give Celtic the lead for the first time, with James Forrest adding the gloss in stoppage-time after a rapid counter-attack.

Celtic move 11 points clear of second-placed Rangers – who face St Mirren later on Sunday – while St Johnstone stay 11th, two points behind Aberdeen in 10th.

How Celtic turned on the style to fight back

Days after Celtic’s miserable exit from the Champions League – with their fate sealed by a 2-0 defeat to Lazio in Rome – a date with the club second-bottom of the league, with just two wins all season, seemed to be the perfect tonic; St Johnstone had lost on all of the last 13 occasions they had hosted the champions.

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Diallang Jaiyesimi opens the scoring for St Johnstone against Celtic after a frantic goalmouth scramble

That was on paper, but the reality was different. Celtic dominated the ball in the first half, but showed little urgency. Their best chance came 25 minutes in when Saints goalkeeper Dimitar Mitov dived to his right to claw David Turnbull’s curling effort away after he majestically shifted the ball from right to left.

St Johnstone grew in confidence as a result of their opponents’ lack of fluency and netted the opener their efforts deserved when O’Riley’s attempt to hack the ball off the line ricocheted off Jaiyesimi and over the line.

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McGregor gets the equaliser for Celtic in style with a powerful volley

A VAR review followed, with goalkeeper Joe Hart claiming he had been fouled after the initial corner from the left, but appeals were futile and the goal stood.

The pressure from the visitors increased after the break, with Mitov called into action several times to preserve the lead. But he could do nothing to stop McGregor thumping the equaliser home after James Brown’s headed clearance fell perfectly for him.

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Matt O’Riley rockets home Celtic’s second goal putting them ahead in the 78th minute

There was a collective sigh of relief among the visiting supporters less than 15 minutes later, as Celtic finally took the lead for the first time when O’Riley – who made his Denmark debut on November 20 – fired the most perfect of strikes past Mitov after a mesmerising build-up.

There was drama yet to come, though. Jay Turner-Cooke perhaps should have equalised from close-range to earn a point for St Johnstone, but after Hart clawed his effort away, Celtic embarked on a counter-attack that was clinically finished by James Forrest.

What’s next?

Celtic’s next Scottish Premiership match is at home to Hibernian on Wednesday night.

St Johnstone face Motherwell at Fir Park on the same night. Both games kick off at 7.45pm.

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