Sport Soccer

Thursday 23 November 2017

Heroics from Gordon keep Celtic ahead of the pack

St Johnstone 1 Celtic 2

Celtic's Gary MacKay-Steven challenges Simon Lappin during their Scottish Premier League soccer match
Celtic's Gary MacKay-Steven challenges Simon Lappin during their Scottish Premier League soccer match
St Johnstone's Michael O'Halloran scores his sides first goal during the Scottish Premiership game at McDiarmid Park, Perth
Celtic's Stefan Johansen scores as he is challenged by St Johnstone's Steven Anderson

Roddy Forsyth

Those who saw Craig Gordon's legendary block from Bolton's Zat Knight in stoppage time of Sunderland's 1-0 home win in December 2010 still speak of it with reverence.

It was voted the greatest save in 20 years of the Premier League but on Saturday, Gordon surpassed it.

This time his heroics were performed in the more homely surroundings of St Johnstone's home at McDiarmid Park as Celtic - seeking an eighth consecutive win in 2015 - tried to hang on to a 2-1 lead which had become fragile as Saints summoned a fierce rally in the final moments.

In a crammed and combative penalty box St Johnstone sub Brian Graham put a meaty header on target.

Gordon clawed it away but the ball fell to Dave Mackay. He struck the almost point-blank rebound with venom but Gordon somehow contrived to meet it on the dive with a flick of a glove which diverted the shot's trajectory over the top.

Asked if that double save had been the best of his career, Gordon replied: "It's for other people to decide that. I just try to keep the ball out of the net."

Yes, and Napoleon just marched soldiers here and there and Beethoven just came up with a couple of memorable tunes you can hum.

Amazing

Stefan Johansen, scorer of Celtic's second after 52 minutes, testified he had only ever seen a save like it on his FIFA game, while manager Ronny Deila variously described the double block as "brilliant" and "amazing".

Chances are that Gordon will need to conjure more wonders on Thursday when Inter Milan pitch up at Celtic Park on Europa League business before a capacity crowd of 60,000.

Celtic scored here after only 35 seconds, Leigh Griffiths' goal surpassing the 38-second strike by Gary Mackay-Steven against Partick Thistle last Wednesday.

Those scenarios are utterly improbable against a Serie A side of Inter's calibre and Celtic will also be punished if they are as careless in possession as they were at times in Perth, where Gordon's shutout record - stretching back to December - came to an end after a total of 819 minutes, 20 minutes after Johansen had doubled Celtic's advantage.

Tam Scobbie's shot came off the keeper's knee and not even he could summon one of his miracle reflexes to stop Michael O'Halloran's strike on the rebound. (© Daily Telegraph London)

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