St Johnstone 1-3 Celtic extras: Postecoglou goes all 'Scottish play' with covid, the 500 don't spare ref Madden, Bitton out his tree and most naturally gifted player in Scotland

There were curious and captivating elements to Celtic’s 3-1 win in Perth.

Celtic's Tom Rogic is peerless in the Scottish game when he turns it on, as he did in the 3-1 win away to St Johnstone.  (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
Celtic's Tom Rogic is peerless in the Scottish game when he turns it on, as he did in the 3-1 win away to St Johnstone. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

Player of the match

On a scarred and bruised pitch, Celtic’s aesthete drew so many pretty pictures. It isn’t said often enough, but for sheer natural talent, no player based in Scottish football can touch Tom Rogic. His balletic grace allied to his surgical and visionary passing ensured the Australian playmaker, eh, made the play for Ange Postecoglou’s men. He was the fulcrum of countless attacks, providing two assists as he weaved his magic. From his invincibles era pomp, he has become less taker and more creator. Only three goals this season, that is some way behind his 12-strike total from that 2016-17 season. However, his eight assists for the campaign eclipses a six haul then. And half the season still remains. Postecoglou’s revitalising of the 29-year-old’s career, could push it to new heights.

Turning point

St Johnstone, for all that they had lost their six previous league games, must have sniffed an opportunity with Celtic missing nine players between injuries and covid-related issues. Yet, as soon as the whistle sounded and the visitors got their groove on immediately, any notion Callum Davidson’s men, looking to press Ange Postecoglou’sside, could hold them off as St Mirren had by camping in five days earlier, was instantly dispelled.

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Letdown

Covid is a serious, and seriously disrupting, issue for football. Yet, does it require the secrecy that some clubs attach to it? Hundreds of thousands of us have had to address the issue of contracting the virus, and haven’t done so in circumspect fashion in any public domains. We knew that Celtic had a clutch of covid cases, and could work out how these impacted on the available personnel for McDiarmid Park through the absence of non-injured performers from those striped for the encounter. Just as well, because Ange Postecoglou offered no assistance on that front. Like an actor refusing to utter the supposedly-cursed title Macbeth - known only in theatrical circles as the ‘Scottish play’ - the Celtic manager did not allow the word covid to pass his lips talking about his selection concerns. He spoke about “challenges”, the week being “chaotic”, but it was all elliptical. Unnecessarily so.

Ref watch

If anyone might have welcomed the Omicron variant, Covid-19 case spike that resulted in fan numbers being restricted to 500 on Boxing Day, it would have been officials, surely, for the possibility of leaving them open to less grief from the stands. Yet, matters didn’t play out that way for poor Bobby Madden, with the socially-distanced fans in McDiarmid Park in lusty voice, at least initially. Following the shock of all shocks - famously lenient referee Madden showing a yellow for a minor infringement - the “crowd” let him have it. Madden was called out for being a practitioner of self love by way of a term that rhymes with tanker, and it felt all the more personal because it seemed every, uhm, abuser chanting could be heard individually.

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Gave us a giggle

Nir Bitton clearly has a keenly-developed sense of humour. Assuming captaincy duties from the absent Callum McGregor, the 30-year-old midfelder marked the afternoon not only with an on-point, dominant midfield display and a first club goal since January 30, 2021, but also a social media classic afterwards, He delighted in his day with a tickling Instagram post wherein he made merry of the fact a Celtic supporter who had watched the game hanging off a tree outside bore more than a passing resemblance to him. “Took my celebration to the next level” he wrote, including two smiley faces to inspire a good few more.

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