Celtic continue to live dangerously after indolent spell that sends out some alarm bells

The champions continue good Perth form but standards need to be maintained

Celtic’s spell of living dangerously continued even as they racked up a 14th straight victory within the confines of McDiarmid Park.

A sequence at St Johnstone’s home that stretches back seven-and-a-half years looked under genuine threat – as with Brendan Rodgers’ record of never enduring a three-game winless run across two spells totalling three years – with the Scottish champions indolent, indecisive and generally insipid across the opening period that left them trailing to a 40th-minute Daillang Jaiyesimi goal.

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Indeed, all that and more for their manager. Evidenced by the fact that even after they were spared by sumptuous hits from Callum McGregor and Matt O’Riley in the 67th and 83rd minutes, the Irishman was still seething. So unwilling to countenance the absence of conviction as they proved “soft” and were “bullied” in being breached for the opener, the 50-year-old claimed it left him angrier than he had ever been as a coach when it came to delivering a half-time, strip-paint-from-the-walls dressing room home truths.

Matt O'Riley fired Celtic 2-1 ahead at McDiarmid Park.Matt O'Riley fired Celtic 2-1 ahead at McDiarmid Park.
Matt O'Riley fired Celtic 2-1 ahead at McDiarmid Park.

The truth is Celtic look vulnerable to any opponent that prove astute in setting out to clamp them down in the final third and get up close and personal in their duels. Across the initial 45 minutes, Craig Levein’s men did both to great effect, the latter facet instrumental in Celtic’s duffing up as they attempted to defend a Graham Carey corner five minutes from the break. Big style. O’Riley initially had a fresh-air swipe when attempting to clear, before Joe Hart then failed to connect with a punch as he seemed blocked by own team-mate Greg Taylor. That gave way to O’Riley scuffing at the ball when looking to knock it away, only for it to hit the prostate Jaiyesimi and dribble in.

Rodgers’s bid to change the pattern meant Mikey Johnston appearing for the ineffectual Yang Hyun-jun at the interval, before Oh Hyeon-gyu replaced David Turnbull just before the hour. Frankly, Turnbull was no more off it than McGregor or O’Riley, but the pair justified being retained to turn the contest on its head. In the 67th minute the Celtic captain took it upon himself to provide the leadership required when he pounced on a James Brown header to the edge of the box, slamming his foot down on the ball to send a fizzing drive whistling past Dimitar Mitov.

For the spectacular, O’Riley’s 83rd-minute effort eclipsed this strike. A sweeping move that involved Alastair Johnston ferrying the ball up the left before his winger namesake cutely back-flicked the ball for Kyogo Furuahashi to tee him up then concluding with the Danish international sending a piledriver into the top corner.

The 93rd minute denouement allowed for sheen to be placed on the outcome that was rough on the Perth side, Hart pushing away a header from Jay Turner-Cooke before the ball broke to the other end and Tomoki Iwata squared for Forrest to take a touch and curl in with the outside of his foot.

Celtic won’t always be able to conjure up three moments of scoring brilliance to paper over cracks evident in their general level of play. Rodgers knows that, and the upshot of that is plasterwork on the dressing rooms within top flight grounds may not be secure over the coming months.