Ciftci double helps Hoops put European ghosts to bed
St johnstone 0-3 Celtic
Published 14/12/2015 | 02:30
In weather apt for a retreat from Moscow, Celtic put their continental ambitions behind them for another season and turned to the midwinter domestic slog.
In this campaign, at least, they have advanced on all fronts and after a long trip home from Istanbul and their meeting with Fenerbahce, an ultimately comfortable victory in Perth restored their margin over Aberdeen at the top of the Scottish Premiership to four points with a game in hand.
Moreover, for all their disappointment and frustration in their Champions League qualifiers and Europa League group stage games, Celtic have followed every European tie with a domestic win, as Ronny Deila pointed out afterwards.
"This is the 10th time we have come home from Europe and the 10th time we have won," said the Celtic manager.
"I don't know if we have ever done that in history before. You will need to look a long way back to see a team getting 30 points from 10 games immediately after Europe."
Yet St Johnstone looked much the more likely to take something from the game in an opening half hour during which they missed two great chances.
The Celtic defence has been much criticised for conceding goals from crosses but on this occasion the deficiency exposed was at the heart of the hosts' back-line when Mikael Lustig forced a corner 10 minutes before half-time.
From Callum McGregor's delivery, the Hoops captain helped the ball on to Nadir Ciftci, who controlled it with his thigh, swivelled and shot home at the back post.
Celtic doubled their margin immediately after the break as another McGregor corner kick yielded reward, on this occasion when Dedryck Boyata met it with a forceful header on the six-yard line.
The coup de grâce was administered by Ciftci with another header, this time from Lustig's curling cross.
His two goals doubled his tally for Celtic since he moved from Dundee United during the summer.
"I am very pleased," said the Turkish striker. "After the tough game on Thursday, the travelling and the heavy pitch it was a great team performance and a great three points."
Celtic entertain Motherwell on Saturday with the Hoops looking for another three points.
Victory in that game would give them a seven-point cushion over Aberdeen who entertain Inverness at Pittodrie on Sunday.