THERE was entertainment to be had at St Mirren Park yesterday. Alas, most of it was reserved for the post-match media conference that followed a pretty dour struggle in which Celtic eventually prevailed.
St Mirren - 1
Celtic - 2
Goodwin 42og; Guidetti 63
Celtic, unconvincing once more, recovered from the loss of an equaliser to win courtesy of a second half John Guidetti strike… and a first-half opener awarded to him by referee Craig Thomson. The Swede created much merriment in dancing round the fact that “the number six”, otherwise Jim Goodwin, was the last player to touch the ball before it dribbled into the net just before the break. It did so after the pair, and keeper Marian Kello, became entwined following a ball played across the box by Scott Brown.
Celtic manager Ronny Deila also rated highly on the mirth-making scale in how he handled the injury absence of Kris Commons, whose creativity and guile were sorely missed. Struggling to explain the problem that had counted out the playmaker when asked to make a call on his possible participation in this week’s Europa League encounter at home to Dinamo Zagreb, the Norwegian said: “He has pulled a muscle in his … how can I say this?...in his butt. I hope it’s from football… I hope he’s back for Thursday – [defender] Jason [Denayer] as well.”
Deila, who admitted he was “irritated” by the paucity of chances his team created in a performance that “wasn’t the best”, will now be cursing the dashed hopes that Guidetti might have been available for his team’s Europa League group campaign. The striker fails to qualify because the process to complete his year-long period on loan was not finalised before the transfer deadline, FIFA granting dispensation to allow the temporary move to go ahead because everything was in order from Celtic’s side.
Guidetti, whose development has been stunted by illness and injury in the past two years, has now played a crucial role in three of his team’s goals across the past two games, after his first net-bulging moment arrived in the 3-0 League Cup midweek win over Hearts. In so doing, the 22-year-old has seemed to possess a potency singularly absent in the early showings from £2.4m permanent striker signing Stefan Scepovic, who came off the bench to replace the goal-scorer as he stiffened up. He could leave the field content, having just fired in a low drive that Marian Kello allowed to go through him at his near post for the winning strike.
“It was a great goal, my second one,” Guidetti said. “I felt a bit of massive cramp in my left leg seconds earlier, but I feel you let the team down if you walk off at 1-1. That’s not acceptable. But after the goal I walked over to the manager and said I had cramp. He decided not to take any risks and took me off. I totally respect that. I was happier to leave the team when we were winning 2-1.”
Guidetti was also happy that Thomson didn’t see the pinball that resulted in a touch from him knocking the ball on to Kello and then against Goodwin for the first goal. “I had everything to do with the first goal,” he said. “The referee’s come to me before the start of the second half and said ‘John, I’ve given you the goal and you know what they say, don’t argue with the referee’. So that’s good enough for me.
“To be fair, I was just going to tap it in and then I got smashed for the third time by the number six. I didn’t know which planet I was on for a brief moment. Then I said to the ref, ‘Red card surely or something.’ Then I saw the ball in the back of the net.
“I’ll take anything I can. The tackle before, even the number six came to me right after and said it should’ve been a penalty. He said it was a stone cold penalty, 100 per cent. I don’t think he would say it if it wasn’t, but this happens sometimes. Sometimes I argue with the ref, this time I won’t. I’ll take the goal, thank you.”
Goodwin confirmed he got the last touch in the scramble around the first goal – “give it to Guidetti lads”, he said – and that he had told the striker he “got lucky” with a penalty box collision he admitted could have earned him a red card. Yet, he felt misfortune ultimately befell his side, who hit the bar through a bazooka of a long-range hit from Thomas Reilly in the first half and equalised four minutes after the interval. Their goal required a helping hand from Craig Gordon. He threw the ball straight to Sean Kelly when attempting to send away Mubarak Wakaso down the right and although he saved well from John McGinn seconds later, he was powerless to prevent Kenny McLean following up to finish.
St Mirren manager Tommy Craig has now watched his side lose six of their opening seven league games. And even if he felt his team might could have earned a point had they settled at 1-1 for longer than 14 minutes, he is sensitive to how saying so might be interpreted.
“In three or four days from now it will just go down as another defeat,” he said. “That is the annoying thing. How many times have you heard me say that this season? We played well, but it is another defeat.”
MAN OF THE MATCH: John Guidetti (Celtic) Swedish striker inspired his team’s win.
TALKING POINT: Even after numerous TV replays it was still possible to debate who scored the first Celtic goal.
Referee: C Thomson. Attendance: 5,280