Van Dijk strikes to maintain Celtic run
St Johnstone 0 Celtic 1
Celtic have only to avoid defeat at Inverness on Sunday to take their unbeaten league run -- now at 18 games -- into 2014 and the halfway stage in the Scottish Premiership campaign after a hard-fought encounter at McDiarmid Park.
The goal which separated the sides was scored before some spectators had taken their places and it was netted by Virgil van Dijk, who cemented his already established place in Neil Lennon's affections by his overall performance.
Celtic forced a corner, taken by Commons and cleared towards Van Dijk, who showed admirable composure to stride into the box and measure his shot low beyond Alan Mannus.
Their advantage established, Celtic tried to sink their teeth into wounded prey and might have done so when Dubliner Anthony Stokes dinked a header over Mannus but saw his netbound effort turned behind by Dave Mackay.
St Johnstone's threat was routed through Steve May but, for all his pace and trickery, the forward was repeatedly crowded out and their best attempt of the first half was a volley by Gary Millar.
Millar was replaced by Gwion Edwards at half-time and Saints were transformed, retaining possession better, from where they were able to launch a series of breaks, creating the space which May had craved and when he was put clear down the right he cut infield to strike just beyond the back post.
The home team saw the whites of Fraser Forster's eyes with their next attempt, a full-blooded shot from Edwards which the goalkeeper could scarcely have seen as it arrowed towards him but which he somehow beat out.
To emphasise the nature of an unexpectedly absorbing contest, Celtic promptly forced Mannus into an even better save. Commons latched on to a cut-back to uncork a fierce low effort which was heading inside the far post until the Canadian 'keeper hurled himself along his line to tip the ball around the base of the upright and draw merited applause from the Hoops fans gathered behind him. (© Daily Telegraph, London)