St Johnstone 0 - 4 Celtic: Hoops break 100-year-old record

Celtic break their own 100-year-old British record for unbeaten games. Picture: SNS/Craig Williamson
Celtic break their own 100-year-old British record for unbeaten games. Picture: SNS/Craig Williamson
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Brendan Rodgers claimed this was never the destination. But having arrived at the latest milestone, making history in the process, there is no doubting he and his players have enjoyed the journey.

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Extending their unbeaten run to 63 games, they bettered a British record held by Willie Maley’s legendary Celtic side, and ensured they will now be talked about in the same reverential terms as the men who set that standard a century ago.

For Rodgers, though, it has always been about taking it one game at a time. From the minute he assumed control of a squad of players underperforming for the previous manager, and added a sprinkling of class and goalscorers, he has demanded the work rate and the mentality that, when combined with the quality in their ranks, has rendered them unstoppable in the Scottish game.

But not even he, with all his positivity and self-belief, could have envisaged such dominance.

“Could I imagine us going 63 unbeaten games at the start? Not really. But it was something I never really thought about – it was always the next game. That’s my motto,” he said. “This was my 400th game as a manager and I’ve learned to just focus on my next game. That’s what we do. The players are in that mindset as well, but you could never have said coming in here that we would do this.

“Going back to that team Willie Maley had, people of my age will be aware of guys like Patsy Gallacher. That is because it was a great team with great players, who achieved so much. For us to go beyond them and make it 63 games unbeaten is a special feeling. I could never have imagined that.”

The fact that they broke the record on the same turf where they last suffered defeat at the hands of a domestic rival, was fitting. The fact that they did it with ease showed just how far they have come since that Wednesday night in May 2016.

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But no-one at Celtic will be indulging in any kind of complacency even if rivals like Saints boss Tommy Wright acknowledged the gulf. “Not one of my players would get anywhere near the Celtic squad. That’s not being detrimental to them, it’s just how strong Celtic are,” said the Perth boss, who has been linked with the vacant position at Dundee United but insisted it was news to him. “They’ve got quality and the right work ethic, which is always a good combination, so they’re in a very strong position.”

They proved that once again, yesterday, as they ran over the top of a St Johnstone side who have now won just once in the last 10 games and failed to score in the last six.

Celtic started with the same XI that began the Champions League match against Bayern Munich in midweek. In the main, it is a group of players he inherited from Ronnie Deila – only Scott Sinclair and Moussa Dembele were his acquisitions – but they have developed beyond recognition.

It was Sinclair who opened the scoring but it took him until the 28th minute. Stuart Armstrong sent in the corner and, losing Scott Tanser, Sinclair side-footed it past Zander Clark and Armstrong forced a save from Clark with an angled drive a couple of minutes later.

Before the interval Callum McGregor tried to curl an effort inside the post and Armstrong had another go before Blair Alston had a dig at the other end, his free-kick bouncing in front of Craig Gordon and eliciting a brief bout of panic.

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The second half started with Kieran Tierney having a crack at goal, followed by James Forrest, but the visitors had to wait until the 71st minute before adding to their tally.

Dembele got things going with a ball out to Tierney and Armstrong, on the overlap, was played in by the Scotland full-back and, from the byline, dinked a perfectly weighted cross in for Dembele to wrap it up.

Three minutes later Dembele sent a ball across the face of goal and this time it was Saints centre-back Steven Anderson who stuck out a leg to send it past his own keeper.

Substitute Olivier Ntcham rounded things up in the dying minutes with a low drive from the edge of the area.

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