St. Johnstone vs Celtic. Scottish Premiership.
Match report as Celtic beat St Johnstone to restore nine-point lead over Rangers at the top of the Scottish Premiership; Andrew Considine scores own goal before being sent off late on; Kyogo Furuhashi, Aaron Mooy, David Turnbull also score for Celtic; Drey Wright nets for St Johnstone
Monday 6 February 2023 06:03, UK
Celtic restored their nine-point lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership with a comfortable 4-1 win over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park.
Andrew Considine's own goal on 13 minutes put Celtic in front before Kyogo Furuhashi's 22nd goal of the season doubled the visitors' lead (22).
Drey Wright's fine strike from distance halved the deficit (25) but Aaron Mooy's superb finish re-established Celtic's two-goal advantage before half-time (38).
St Johnstone struggled to test Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart despite starting the game brightly and their afternoon got worse when Considine - on his 600th club appearance - was sent off in stoppage time for bringing down substitute Hyeon-Gyu Oh on the edge of the box.
Fellow substitute David Turnbull then made it 4-1 to Celtic when he fired in Matt O'Riley's pass from the resulting free-kick (90+3) to seal an emphatic victory for Ange Postecoglou's side.
It was the perfect response to Rangers' 2-1 win over Ross County on Saturday. As well as moving nine points clear of their rivals, Celtic are now unbeaten in 18 Scottish Premiership matches.
As for St Johnstone, the defeat leaves Callum Davidson's side eighth in the table, seven points above the relegation zone.
Celtic have lost once in 25 league games this season and once again they looked a formidable outfit.
St Johnstone's 2-0 win at Motherwell on Wednesday was their first victory in eight games but little was expected against the Parkhead men.
James Brown, Tony Gallacher, Graham Carey and Connor McLennan came into the home side's line-up, while Postecoglou made just one change, with Mooy replacing O'Riley in midfield for the lunchtime kick-off where the home side battled hard to get an early foothold in the game.
The Hoops slowly gained control and took the lead when Furuhashi raced on to a pass from Mooy and, from the bye-line, his attempted ball towards fellow Japanese team-mates Daizen Maeda and Reo Hatate was turned into his own net from close range by the helpless Considine.
The early blow to the belief of the Perth side was compounded in the 22nd minute when Furuhashi fired high past home goalkeeper Remi Matthews after Portuguese winger Jota's cross following a long pass from Mooy, who was having a fine game.
It looked like being another romp for the champions but they switched off for a moment and Wright drove past Hoops 'keeper Hart from 20 yards to give the hosts some hope.
However, the visitors remained calm and Jota's clever chip over the St Johnstone defence gave Mooy time and space to calmly lob Matthews from 16 yards.
Furuhashi's shot over the bar was the last chance in the first half and Jota came close to scoring in the 53rd minute when he skimmed the crossbar with a 24-yard drive following a scintillating Celtic move.
Celtic kept pushing and probing although, five minutes later, in a rare St Johnstone attack, McLennan could not get on the end of a Carey cross just yards from goal.
Liel Abada and O'Riley replaced Hatate and Maeda in the 69th minute, while Saints midfielder David Wotherspoon came on for Wright.
Abada lofted a cross from Jota over the bar in the 75th minute before Zak Rudden came on to make his St Johnstone debut amid another batch of substitutions.
When Considine was sent packing for his foul on Oh just outside the box, Turnbull took a short O'Riley pass and fired past Matthews, with the goal confirmed after a long VAR check for offside.
Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou speaking to Sky Sports:
"I'm really pleased because the conditions weren't easy, particularly the pitch. We had to overcome that and not steer too far away from our football and I thought we did that.
"Because of the nature of the game, there were times when we had to defend and I thought we did that really well as well, which was good to see and we got four good goals.
"As the game went on the pitch got more and more cut up which meant there were going to be more mistakes and make it harder for us to move the ball quickly, but I still thought some of our football was excellent.
"Those early goals were important because it gave us a foothold in the game. We're disappointed to concede the one we did, but we reacted to it in the right manner."
St Johnstone manager Callum Davidson speaking to Sky Sports:
"It's a funny one because when you normally play against Celtic, your goalkeeper is always making save after save, but they had four shots on target so that shows how clinical they were.
"I was actually quite pleased with the first half. We showed great character to come back from 2-0 down, but the last goal just before the break to go 3-1 down was disappointing.
"In the second half, we stuck to the game plan and tried to do the right things. I thought we passed the ball well and thought our unit was good.
"The players did their jobs. It was disappointing at the end to concede another goal and have Andy sent off, but overall I thought the energy levels and performance levels from most of my boys were really good."
Celtic's Aaron Mooy has now been directly involved in 10 league goals this season (four goals, six assists), his most in a league campaign for a British club since 2016/17 for Huddersfield (11 - four goals, seven assists).
Speaking to Sky Sports after the match, Mooy said: "It was a good day. We got the goals in the first half and managed to clinch another one at the end, so 4-1 is a good result."
On his goal, he added: "I made a late run and Jota chipped it over the top. I took a touch, tried to take it early and chipped it over the goalkeeper. It was a good goal and I'm very happy."
The attention turns to the Scottish Cup for Celtic with a fifth-round tie at home to St Mirren on February 11. Kick-off 5.30pm.
St Johnstone are out of the competition and their next league match is away to Dundee United on February 18. Kick-off 3pm.