St Johnstone 0-6 Celtic: James Forrest scores four goals in Celtic win
Last Updated: 08/10/18 6:03am
James Forrest scored four times in the first half as Celtic rediscovered their attacking prowess to thrash St Johnstone, and go third in the Scottish Premiership.
Forrest, who was sent off in the Europa League on Thursday, rebounded in style with the help of Tom Rogic who provided three assists, as Celtic blew apart their opponents in an astonishing opening 45 minutes at McDiarmid Park.
Odsonne Edouard (22) and Callum McGregor (84) also found the net, as Celtic piled on the misery for Tommy Wright's team, who had Danny Swanson red-carded for a crude foul on Forrest.
Celtic ended a run of seven successive games with one goal or less in style, but prior to the match there was little to hint at the onslaught to come. Indeed the build-up had, again, been troubling for the champions, with Brendan Rodgers the subject of pre-match speculation linking him to Aston Villa, while Thursday's defeat to Salzburg threatened to shake the champions' confidence.
St Johnstone: Clark (7), Tanser (3), Shaughnessy (4), Kerr (4), Foster (3), Alston (4), Wright (4), Wotherspoon (4), Swanson (2), McMillan (4), Callachan (4)
Subs: Anderson (5), Craig (N/A), Kane (N/A)
Celtic: Gordon (6), Lustig (7), Benkovic (6), Boyata (6), Tierney (8), Ntcham (7), McGregor (7), Forrest (10), Rogic (9), Edouard (7), Griffiths (6)
Subs: Sinclair (6), Simunovic (6), Morgan (6)
Man of the match: James Forrest
Celtic had only lost once in 11 trips to Perth, and had won at the same venue the previous week in the League Cup quarter-finals. However, St Johnstone started brighter, and nearly led after five minutes. Drey Wright swung a high cross to the back post which Swanson met unmarked on the volley, but his shot was straight at Craig Gordon who parried clear.
Celtic then began laying siege to the St Johnstone goal. First, Forrest shot low at Zander Clark, who saved well with his feet, and the follow-up from McGregor was blocked by Joe Shaughnessy; from the resulting corner, Filip Benkovic's header was parried by Clark. Moments later, the goalkeeper saved again from Leigh Griffiths, but the opening goal appeared inevitable.
When it came, it was triggered by a mistake from St Johnstone defender Scott Tanser. The left-back was robbed by Forrest, who strode forward and fed Rogic, who in turn found Edouard. His shot was well blocked by Clark, but the rebound fell to Forrest, who finished with ease.
Edouard nearly added a second five minutes later, with only Clark's fingertips keeping out the Frenchman's low shot. Shortly afterwards he did get on the scoresheet, collecting Kieran Tierney's pass and finishing with aplomb.
The third goal was a splendid team move initiated by Tierney and finished, again, by Forrest, who played a one-two with Rogic before curling the ball past Clark. Rodgers punched the air with delight, as he watched his team finally click into gear as an attacking force.
Forrest's hat-trick came after 37 minutes, but it was all far too easy from a St Johnstone perspective, as the home defence left him alone to receive Rogic's pass before sliding a shot under Clark.
Brendan Rodgers made two changes to the team beaten by RB Salzburg on Thursday. Youssouf Mulumbu and Jack Hendry dropped out with Filip Benkovic and Tom Rogic coming in. Tommy Wright also made two changes with David Wotherspoon and Danny Swanson coming in.
Incredibly, Forrest netted his fourth goal on 44 minutes, with Rogic once again the provider. The Scotland winger turned and sped forward unchallenged, before finishing precisely into the far corner with Clark helpless. St Johnstone manager Wright immediately replaced Richard Foster with Steven Anderson in defence, as the home support booed off their team at the whistle.
It seemed the only way to halt the irrepressible Forrest was by hacking him down; Swanson took this option shortly after the break and saw a straight red card from referee Kevin Clancy.
St Johnstone's shape was far more secure with 10 men than it had been with eleven, and Celtic's tempo dropped resulting in a tepid second half. Rodgers introduced Scott Sinclair and Jozo Simunovic for Griffiths and Benkovic, as the match became a training exercise for the visitors.
Mikael Lustig laid on the sixth goal for McGregor on 84 minutes as Celtic finally took advantage of their extra man.
Celtic's next game after the international break sees them host Hibernian at Celtic Park on Saturday, October 20. They then face RB Leipzig in the Europa League five days later.
As for St Johnstone, they are next in action on Saturday, October 20 when they face Motherwell at Fir Park.