Sunday 5th February
Saints fell to Celtic 5-2, in a match Tommy Wright's men were leading 2-1 at half time. However the scoreline wasn't reflective of the performance with a number of controversial decisions in the second half going against the Perth men at crucial moments.
The Hoops had gone ahead via Liam Henderson before St. Johnstone replied through Keith Watson and a Dedryck Boyata own goal.
However, second half goals from Moussa Dembele (3) and Scott Sinclair meant the visitors' winning league run extended to 19 matches.
Due to a virus, Saints captain Steven Anderson was missing from Tommy Wright’s match day squad on Sunday afternoon for the visit of Celtic, having played the full match in Wednesday’s victory at Partick Thistle.
There were three further changes to the starting eleven as Steven MacLean, Chris Millar and Liam Craig dropped to the bench, with Tam Scobbie, Paul Paton and Keith Watson coming in.
The visitors started the game well and on five minutes, Patrick Roberts and Liam Henderson ganged up on Danny Swanson to dispossess the Saints midfielder and exchange passes before releasing Gary Mackay-Steven on the edge of the box to take a touch before hitting a left-footed shot that was blocked by Zander Clark. Celtic persisted with the attack and after Roberts played a one-two with Scott Brown in the box, the young forward fired a shot at Clark who again managed to block, but this time spilled it into the path of Henderson at the penalty spot mark who fired a powerful effort just inside the left-hand post to put the league leaders ahead.
In the minutes that followed, Celtic had two more opportunities, first by Mackay-Steven who was thwarted by a great sliding tackle from Joe Shaughnessy, before Henderson got onto the end of a Kieran Tierney pass to see his shot blocked by one of several Saints defenders who put their bodies on the line to keep him from grabbing a second.
On 12 minutes, Danny Swanson came close to getting an equaliser when a poor kick out from away goalie Craig Gordon found the feet of the former Coventry City man who’s shot flew just past the left post.
Minutes later and Swanson managed to pick up the ball on the edge of Saints’ box following a Celtic attack and ran with it towards the halfway line. He exchanged passes with David Wotherspoon before driving towards the Celtic penalty box and managing to play in Richard Foster – who had ran the length of the pitch to be involved in the attack – but with the ball moving away from goal and coming onto Foster’s weaker left foot, his shot was blocked by the legs of Gordon.
On 21 minutes Scott Sinclair won the ball on the edge of the Celtic penalty box and with pace took the ball upfield to release Mackay-Steven to the right of him inside the box. The former Dundee United man fired a good effort at Clark, who spilled the shot but then leaped on top of the ball before the incoming Sinclair could get a foot to it.
On the half hour mark, Foster was on the right-wing and played in Wotherspoon who drove into the box from the by-line and beat his man before seeing his shot at goal deflected for a corner.
Swanson swung it in to find the head of Keith Watson who had leaped above Nir Bitton towards the far post. His header deflected off Scott Brown and into the back of the net. The goal was Watson’s first for the club in his first home league match for Saints since joining last summer from St. Mirren.
Moments later and Paton found Swanson on the right-wing to play in a beautiful ball which found the head of Wotherspoon between the six yard line and the penalty spot, but the effort flew just wide.
Just before half time, and after good play from Foster and Wotherspoon, the latter found Danny Swanson, this time on the left-wing, to put the ball onto his right foot and swing in a cross that Celtic defender Dedryck Boyata headed into his own net after pressure from Wotherspoon. It was now 2-1 to the Saintees.
Before the half time whistle blew, Celtic had a great chance to equalise when Mikael Lustig played the ball to Roberts who managed to get the ball over Shaughnessy on the edge of the box to fire a fine effort on goal, with Clark getting down to the his left quickly to parry away.
After the break Celtic came out fighting to ensure their unbeaten domestic run didn’t come to an end, and piled pressure on the Saints goal to create a chance for Liam Henderson who drove in from the left and saw his attempt blocked by Clark and then cleared away by Tam Scobbie.
On 54 minutes, Saints had a big penalty shout waved away. A miscued Paton cross was brought down by Swanson on the edge of the penalty area and as he ran towards goal his heels appeared to be clipped by Scott Brown who made an unsuccessful attempt to kick the ball. The home crowd booed as Swanson looked on in frustration at the referee.
Just before the hour mark, and with the away bench becoming nervous, Moussa Dembele was brought on to bolster Celtic’s attack and by 61 minutes he had brought his side level in controversial circumstances.
Kieran Tierney beat Foster on the left-wing before attempting to fire in a cross. This cross was blocked by the back of Keith Watson, but the referee believed it had struck his hand and awarded a spot kick, which Dembele fired past Clark.
Dembele added to that strike on 75 minutes when he fired a powerful and well-placed shot past Clark from the edge of the area after a Lustig pass. The former Fulham man was left unmarked to pick his spot and leave Clark, who had several Saints defenders in his line of sight, helpless to stop it.
Scott Sinclair then added a fourth (81 minutes) when he was played in by Patrick Roberts, following a surging counter-attack, to fire the ball into the bottom left corner despite the best efforts of Scobbie to block.
The visitors wrapped up the scoring as Dembele grabbed a hat-trick. After some showboating from Lustig and Roberts in the area, the latter managed to backheel the ball to Dembele around the penalty spot mark to beat Clark with another well-placed effort.
Final score: Saints 2-5 Celtic
Man of the match: Brian Easton
Saints: Clark, Foster (MacLean 78), Shaughnessy, Scobbie, Easton, Watson, Davidson, Paton, Wotherspoon (Alston 70), Swanson (Craig 86), Cummins. Unused subs: Mannus, Millar, Smith, Thomson.
Celtic: Gordon, Lustig, Boyata, Sviatchenko, Tierney, Bitton, Brown, Roberts (Ciftci 86), Henderson (McGregor 72), Mackay-Steven (Dembele 59), Sinclair. Unused subs: Simunovic, Gamboa, de Vries, Forrest.
Referee: Craig Thomson Attendance: 6,548.
©Copyright 2016 - all rights reserved by St Johnstone Football Club
Registered in Scotland 7629
Unless otherwise stated all photographs on this site are ©Perthshire Picture Agency and may not be used without permission.