Soccer

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Watt on mark but Celtic's Barca heroics take their toll

CELTIC 1
ST JOHNSTONE 1

Roddy Forsyth

Published 12/11/2012|05:00

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Celtic scale mighty peaks in Europe but they continue to stumble among the foothills of the Scottish Premier League.

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Almost anything that they might have accomplished at home to St Johnstone was bound to be an anti-climax after their extraordinary victory over Barcelona, but few would have anticipated that Neil Lennon's players would shed points to the Perth side for the second time this season.

Moreover, just like when they went down to a 2-1 defeat at McDiarmid Park, Celtic did so after taking the lead, in this instance through Champions League hero Tony Watt. In further remarkable contrast to their European consistency, Celtic have now taken only two from a possible nine points against Kilmarnock, Dundee United and Saints.

Although Lennon had said beforehand that -- after suitable time to savour their midweek achievement -- his players would have to don their boiler suits and buckle down to domestic graft, the teams warmed up to big screen replays of the cacophonous atmosphere of the previous Wednesday.

If there had been any thought that St Johnstone might be intimidated, they were swiftly banished after a perfectly observed Remembrance Sunday silence.

Adventure

Within the opening four minutes they had forced two corner kicks, although their sense of adventure came at a cost when David McCracken went off with a facial injury.

The familiar flatness that has followed Celtic's European adventures was again in evidence, with their legs looking a touch heavy on their forays upfield and more so when they had to track back. By the interval, St Johnstone had accomplished a feat that had eluded Barca twice -- they had kept a clean sheet.

Lennon identified the most likely source of urgency amongst his replacements and sent Watt out in place of Miku for the restart.

The ploy looked inspired within five minutes as the 18-year-old put Celtic in front. Like his winner in midweek, it was a route-one goal, in this instance stemming from a long diagonal high ball from Charlie Mulgrew which Watt bundled across the line, although Alan Mannus got a touch in the process.

St Johnstone, though, were not cowed and manager Steve Lomas got himself sent to the stand for abusing the officials after Watt had stepped back into play having limped off with an injury.

The visitors finally equalised when Nigel Hasselbaink swivelled to shoot home from nine yards following a corner to leave Pat Fenlon's Hibernian two points clear at the top of the table. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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