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STOKES HELPS CELTIC TO WIN

Second-half goals from Anthony Stokes,Nir Biton and Callum McGregor got Celtic's defence of the Scottish Premiership title off to a winning start as the Hoops won 3-0 away to St Johnstone.

It was just the result that new manager Ronny Deila required although the performance of goalkeeper Craig Gordon was probably the most pleasing factor for the Norwegian.

Craig Gordon made his Celtic debut following the weekend transfer of Fraser Forster to Southampton with loan signing Jason Denayer having to settle for a place on the bench.

Deila's plan to play a high tempo pressing game was easily cancelled out by St Johnstone swamping the midfield and sitting back happy to see what Celtic had to offer.

James Forrest, Kris Commons and Callum McGregor were playing in support of Stokes but the former Hibs striker looked far from happy playing as the sole striker.

Typical of the problems in the Celtic ranks was the performance of Commons. Last season's multiple player of year award winner was barely recognisable as he attempted to play in the elusive 'hole' area between midfield and attack.

Despite setting up Stokes for the opening goal in the 55th minute it was no surprise to see Commons replaced by Jo Inge Berget ten minutes later.

After more than two years out of football, Gordon pulled off his first save of the night in the 20th minute when he instinctively pushed away a snap shot from Stevie MacLean.

Forrest was proving to be Celtic's main attacking threat but there was a lack of movement and belief about Celtic's laboured attempts around the St Johnstone goal with Alan Mannus enjoying a quiet time in the first half.

CHANCES

A week after losing 2-0 to Legia Warsaw at Murrayfield there was no obvious improvement in the way that Celtic were playing but, unlike the Poles, St Johnstone didn't pose many questions of the visitors defence.

Within the opening five minutes of the second half St Johnstone had carved out two chances but neither Lee Croft or Michael O'Halloran were able to hit the target with Stokes making them pay in the 55th minute.

A great through ball by Commons caught the home defence square with Stokes taking the ball wide of Mannus before finding the net from a tight angle to the relief of the restless visiting support.

That goal forced St Johnstone to open the game up but Gordon was giving them no encouragement as he showed no ill effects from a two year absence from the game.

Fifteen minutes from the end, Nir Biton doubled Celtic's lead from the penalty spot after Dave Mackay had sent Derk Boerrigter tumbling in the box.

McGregor completed the scoring in the 84th minute with a low shot that squirmed into the net under former Shamrock Rovers keeper Mannus.


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