November 11, 2012
Celtic stutter against Saints
caption:Scott Brown battles for the ball
There was a tangible sense of anti-climax inside Celtic Park following the Hoops' historic 2-1 Champions League home win over the Catalan giants on Wednesday night and even when substitute Tony Watt, on at the break for Miku, put the home side ahead they did not look convincing.
Saints, who had been recently walloped 5-0 in the same venue in the Scottish Communities League Cup quarter-finals, sensed a point was there for the taking and Nigel Hasselbaink levelled in the 76th minute to leave Celtic with two points from the last nine and two behind Hibernian at the top of the table.
Parkhead manager Neil Lennon had warned against such a lacklustre display and could not have begrudged the Perth men a point.
Skipper Scott Brown returned to the midfield after missing the Barcelona game due to illness.
Defender Mikael Lustig started on the bench with Adam Matthews moving from left-back to the opposite side with Charlie Mulgrew moving back from midfield to left back.
St Johnstone defender Callum Davidson made a return following a back problem along with stopper David McCracken and midfielder David Robertson, with Gregory Tade and Gary Miller dropping to the bench and Steven Anderson out altogether.
This was a very different Celtic Park to the one which witnessed the momentous win over Barca.
There was a perfectly-observed minute's silence to commemorate Remembrance Day post-match but the opening stages were played out in near silence in front a vastly-reduced attendance.
The visitors suffered an early blow in the sixth minute when McCracken had to be replaced by Miller after taking a head knock whilst battling for the ball in the Celtic box.
Nevertheless, Steve Lomas's side, with Steven MacLean leading the line, appeared in positive mode.
A couple of whipped-in crosses from wide on the left by Mulgrew caused some panic but a free-kick from the Hoops utility player - and one from Kris Commons - were both saved with some comfort by Perth keeper Alan Mannus.
In the 26th minute, with Celtic in control, Victor Wanyama was presented with a great chance when Commons stood a cross up at the back post but the Kenyan mis-directed his header across goal, allowing Frazer Wright to complete the clearance.
The match trundled along at no great pace.
Parkhead midfielder Joe Ledley headed over the bar from Commons' cross, moments before the Scotland midfielder made a yard of space for himself at the edge of the box before sending a powerful drive over.
Watt, who had come on as a substitute to score against Barca, replaced Miku for the start of the second-half and six minutes later he put Celtic ahead.
Saints keeper Mannus did not look too clever when he allowed Mulgrew's searching pass to reached the former Airdrie striker who prodded the ball over the line from a couple of yards out with Wright clearing only when the it was over the line.
Not that the opener energised Celtic Park.
Just before the hour-mark a speculative shot from Dave MacKay dipped a yard wide of Fraser Forster's left-hand post Lomas was then sent to the stand by referee Iain Brine after appearing to remonstrate with the referee over his decision to let Watt back on after receiving treatment.
In the 75th minute Saints appealed for a penalty when Celtic defender Efe Ambrose clashed with Tade, on for Robertson, on the edge of the box but referee Brines gave a corner.
The visitors, though, were growing in confidence, pressing Celtic back and Liam Craig's deflected drive took Forster by surprise, the Hoops keeper smartly turning the ball over for a corner but that only delayed the leveller by moments.
The Celtic defence looked uneasy when Mackay's ball came into the box from Mackay and when it eventually fell to Hasselbaink he turned and drove it past Forster from around 10 yard.
Celtic responded and substitute Beram Kayal, on for Joe Ledley, drilled a shot from the edge of the box just over the bar.
St Johnstone, unsurprisingly, were forced to defend in the closing stages but they deservedly held out for a point.
|1 Fraser Forster||1 Alan Mannus|
|6 Kelvin Wilson||18 David McCracken|
|21 Charlie Mulgrew||2 Dave MacKay|
|4 Efe Ambrose||5 Frazer Wright|
|2 Adam Matthews||3 Callum Davidson|
|15 Kris Commons||7 Chris Millar|
|8 Scott Brown||12 David Robertson|
|16 Joe Ledley||10 Liam Craig|
|67 Victor Wanyama||8 Murray Davidson|
|9 Georgios Samaras||17 Steven MacLean|
|7 Nicolas Fedor Ladislao Flores Miku||11 Nigel Hasselbaink|
|24 Lukasz Zaluska||Jonathan Tuffey 15|
|23 Mikael Lustig||Gary Miller 19|
|20 Patrick McCourt||Liam Caddis 26|
|33 Baram Kayal||Chris Tobin 47|
|40 Rabiu Ibrahim||Rowan Vine 23|
|46 Dylan McGeouch||Gregory Tade 9|
|32 Anthony Watt||Christopher Kane 41|
|Anthony Watt for Nicolas Fedor Ladislao Flores Miku (46)||Gary Miller for David McCracken (6)|
|Baram Kayal for Joe Ledley (70)||Gregory Tade for David Robertson (71)|
|Dylan McGeouch for Efe Ambrose (84)||Rowan Vine for Nigel Hasselbaink (84)|
|Murray Davidson (54)|
|· Squads: Celtic | St Johnstone|