Dominant Celtic cruise past Saints to go top of table


Celtic produced a dominant display to see off St Johnstone 3-1 at Celtic Park, a victory that saw the champions go top of the Scottish Premiership.

The returning Kyogo opened the scoring just before half-time, before further goals from Nicolas Kuhn – right at the start of the second half – and substitute James Forrest sealed the win, despite a late consolation by the visitors from Connor Smith.

Nicolas Kuhn celebrates doubling Celtic's lead against St Johnstone
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Nicolas Kuhn celebrates doubling Celtic’s lead

As a result, Brendan Rodgers’ side moved a point clear of rivals Rangers ahead of their trip to Dundee on Sunday, live on Sky Sports, while Saints slip to 10th in the table, just a point clear of Ross County.

How Celtic saw off Saints to go top of the Scottish Premiership

Kyogo was in for Adam Idah after starting the previous three games on the bench, while Cameron Carter-Vickers recovered from a hamstring issue to replace the injured Liam Scales.

James Forrest scoresCeltic's third goal against St Johnstone
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James Forrest scores Celtic’s third

Adama Sidibeh had one long-range effort blocked as the Perth side frustrated Celtic for the opening quarter, but it was clear the St Johnstone striker was in for a lonely afternoon.

The visitors lost midfielder Sven Sprangler to injury with winger Max Kucheriavyi coming on, and Celtic began to wear their visitors down with their first real threats coming from a Matt O’Riley corner.

Luke Robinson twice blocked from Daizen Maeda on the line, the second time sparking a VAR check after the ball hit his upper arm. But referee Euan Anderson was not called to his screen by video assistant Chris Graham.

Team news

Celtic made two changes with key men Cameron Carter-Vickers, who lead the side, and Kyogo Furuhashi back in the starting lineup.

Skipper Callum McGregor was out, while both Liam Scales and Adam Idah dropped to the bench.

As for the visitors, they made four alterations, with the likes of Matthew Smith, Andy Considine, Graham Carey and Adama Sidibeh all starting.

Connor Smith, Nicky Clark and Benjamin Kimpioka were subs, with Diallang Jaiyesimi missing out all together.

Kuhn soon played in Kyogo over the top but the striker shot over with his right foot under pressure from Ryan McGowan.

Robinson produced his third goal-line clearance to deny Tomoki Iwata following another O’Riley corner.

Kyogo was getting closer, seeing a goal disallowed for a marginal offside call after he steered home Paulo Bernardo’s cross and then getting in behind again only to see his shot deflected over.

Iwata was denied by Dimitar Mitov’s flying save before Celtic made their pressure count. Kyogo was quick off the mark to beat Mitov to Kuhn’s inswinging cross and head home from four yards.

Daizen Maeda and David Keltjens compete to win a header
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Daizen Maeda and David Keltjens compete to win a header

The goalscorer continued to threaten, stabbing Alistair Johnston’s low cross just wide and then having another goal disallowed for an offside against Maeda.

He turned provider in the opening minute of the second half, darting beyond the Saints defence to latch on to Greg Taylor’s perfect pass and send in a low cross. Kuhn showed good anticipation to net from six yards.

The Japanese striker soon fired a right-footed effort off the underside of the crossbar after being fed by O’Riley.

O’Riley saw an ambitious free-kick tipped over by Mitov before setting up the third goal midway through the second half.

Iwata won the ball back deep in the Saints half and O’Riley quickly spotted Forrest in space. The winger took a touch and rifled a left-footed strike into the corner of the net from 18 yards.

Matt O'Riley battles for the ball against Daniel Phillips
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Matt O’Riley battles for the ball against Daniel Phillips

Saints got their goal in the 81st minute. Goalkeeper Joe Hart produced an excellent stop from Stevie May’s header and Smith was on hand to net the rebound.

Johnston soon lashed the ball into the roof of the net following a one-two but the flag went up and the decision was ratified after a lengthy VAR check.

Celtic could have given the scoreline a truer reflection of the game in stoppage time but Mitov saved well from Taylor and Iwata headed over from three yards.

What the managers said…

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers:

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Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers praises the backing of the home support in their 3-1 win over St Johnstone and says he’ll be too preoccupied with St Patrick’s Day to worry about the outcome of Dundee versus Rangers.

“Adam [Idah] has been very good when he came in and that is what Kyogo and every player need. They need competition.

“But I thought he was bright, his movement was good. Sharp.

“He was very brave at the first goal. He makes a run and comes back onside and obviously some strikers would maybe move their head out of the way with the ‘keeper coming through but he didn’t and he scored the goal.

“And it was a great cross for the second one. He was excellent.

“I think you are starting to see a little bit of why we brought him [Kuhn] here. He’s very quick.

“It was just hard for him when he came in, struggling with his teeth and everything medically. But he has shown now that he has his strength back up and he’s training really well.

“He obviously puts in a great cross for the first goal and you see his speed for the second one.

“We always want our wingers to get in the box. He got himself in there and scored a fantastic goal.

“I thought from the start of the game there was a great feeling in the stadium and from the crowd.

“The players started the game well and I thought overall it was a very good performance.

“The only downside was when I made all the changes our pressing went a little bit passive and that gave them a little bit more time on the ball than we would have wanted.”

St Johnstone boss Craig Levein:

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St Johnstone boss Craig Levein gives his thoughts on the 3-1 loss at Celtic and says the defeat to the champions ‘won’t define our season’

“Our defensive display was really good. Losing the goal early in the second half was a killer blow but in the first half we restricted Celtic to very few opportunities.

“When we had the ball we just coughed it up every time. It seemed to be constant that we turned the ball over and invited Celtic to have another attack. That was the frustrating part.

“It was about half-an-hour until Celtic had their first shot on target. We restricted them to the wide areas and managed to block any shots and crosses.

“But if you continually give the ball away to a team as good as Celtic, you’re going to be facing attack after attack.

“It looks like [Sven] Sprangler has opened his medial ligament. I’ve no idea if he will be out for weeks or months.”

What’s next?

Celtic return to Scottish Premiership after the international break at Livingston on March 31, live on Sky Sports. Kick-off 12pm.

St Johnstone’s next game is at home to Dundee on March 30. Kick-off 3pm.



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