Friday 24 February 2017

Ki on target to help Celtic close the gap

St Johnstone 0 Celtic 2

Ronnie Esplin

Celtic closed the gap on Rangers at the top of the Scottish Premier League to four points thanks to second-half goals from Gary Hooper and Ki Sung-yueng at McDiarmid Park.

Saints 'keeper Peter Enckelman had made two great saves from Hooper before the former Scunthorpe striker broke the deadlock on the hour from a yard out following a corner, three minutes before Ki scored on the break to seal Celtic's seventh league win on the trot.

The only downside for Hoops manager Neil Lennon was the loss of stopper Daniel Majstorovic, who had to go off in the first half with a suspected fractured cheekbone and eye socket after a clash of heads with Saints midfielder David Robertson, who was also replaced soon afterwards.

If the Sweden international's injury is as serious as first thought, it will rule him out of the visit of Kilmarnock next Saturday before what is shaping up to be a crucial Old Firm derby against Rangers at Parkhead on December 28.

Lennon and St Johnstone manager Steve Lomas found themselves at odds over the game's two major incidents.

Lomas questioned the honesty of Majstorovic's challenge on Robertson on the half-hour mark which saw both players go off .

And he also claimed that Hoops midfielder Beram Kayal should have been sent off after the break for charging down Liam Craig's free-kick after being booked by referee Euan Norris for doing it the first time.

Celtic broke for Ki to score their second goal prompting Lomax to suggest: "Maybe you don't get those decisions against Celtic."

But Lennon countered: "I don't think it deserved a booking the second time and the Majstorovic challenge was a perfectly good, full-blooded challenge from a centre-half who only had eyes for the ball and he ended up worse off for his own bravery.

"It is a big blow because he has been immense for us. We will have to wait to -- but it looked a real sore one."

Asked about Majstorovic's challenge on Robertson, Lomas, who was "proud" of his side's performance, said:

"I haven't seen it again but I thought the big centre-half knew he was 70-30 in favour. It might have just been an honest collision but I wouldn't bet my house on it."

Lomas claimed that Norris's refusal to take action against Kayal was a turning point. "Maybe he didn't see it but if he has booked him once, you would like to think he is looking the second time."

Irish Independent

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