MAN OF THE MATCH
Celtic’s domination of the ball was testament to the one-man midfield engine that is Callum McGregor. The Celtic captain was immaculate in picking passes, recycling the ball and ensuring the home side developed their rhythm following a sluggish start. Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou acknowledged this week that McGregor is key to the way Celtic play and the way he wants them to play. He demonstrated that once more and the fact that Celtic ended the encounter having enjoyed 80% possession was a measure of the influence that McGregor was able to exert. It is no mere coincidence that McGregor’s return from injury has coincided with a four-game winning run for a Celtic that lost four of the five games he missed when sidelined last month.
No-one expected St Johnstone to roll up to Celtic Park and go on the front foot a la Manchester City. They were so inhibited, so in their shells, though, that their performance was negative to the point of being an exercise in resignation. Callum Davidson could argue that after the sobering 3-0 loss to Livingston last week, emerging from Celtic Park with only a 2-0 defeat was successful damage limitation.
In a narrow win, the first goal is absolutely pivotal. The Celtic scorer Giorgos Giakoumakis, with his first goal for the club 35 minutes in, may have had a key say in the contest, but so too did Callum Booth. For the defender misjudging a bouncing ball was what allowed Anthony Ralston to set up the Greek striker. If set up for containment, as the Perth side were, such defensive lapses are fatal.
GAVE US A GIGGLE
Celtic were offering the game as a PPV experience to non-season ticket holders. It meant this band of fans could watch on telly screens in their living rooms. There was a certain irony, then, that their actual season ticket holders positioned in the upper main stand at Celtic Park couldn’t do the same when gazing up to the TV positioned above them to compensate for these seats giving no view of the big screens. A technical glitch, let’s assume, left these poor souls with only a test card throughout.
It would have been a relief to Nick Walsh there were no genuinely major incidents on his return to one of the Glasgow citadels since he sent-off Ryan Porteous for Hibs against Rangers at the start of the month. A call that, even though correct, resulted in the referee’s performance being micro-analysed. The Celtic crowd were baying for Walsh’s blood when he only booked Chris Kane in the 77th minute when he seemed to kick Cameron Carter-Vickers in the stomach as the defender practically lay on the ball as he, obstructively, sought to shield it. A barney ensued with the US international enraged, and Kane may have been fortunate to avoid greater punishment, but it wasn’t certain that Walsh would have been sighted on the nature of Kane’s hacking away for the ball. Two minutes later, there was no dissent from the home supporters when he correctly awarded a penalty for Liam Gordon’s kick to impede Kyogo Furuhashi in the box.