Celtic 5 St Johnstone 0
CELTIC did what they had failed to do in the previous two encounters with St Johnstone over the last week or so, they scored in the first half. In fact they scored twice both in the first ten minutes and both goals were pretty special.
Celtic started with a high tempo and the impressive Oli Burke drove into the visitor’s box with speed, skill and no lack of directness. With the 30,000 inside Paradise waiting on his shoot the big striker squared for Scotty Sinclair who was forced to gather at a narrow angle. His shoot though was perfect and nestled in the bottom corner with the few hundred Saints fans watching nearby. It was a lovely goal.
It wasn’t long before it was two and if Sinclair’s goal was a cracker this one from skipper Scott Brown was even better.
Celtic had continued to press St Johnstone back and when a Forrest pass was deflected to the Celtic captain he took aim from 25 yards and found the postage stamp corner. Spectacular from Broony and how he enjoyed it.
Celtic then dropped down a gear or two and other than another driving run from Burke who got to the byeline and cut back but had no takers for a tap in, there was nothing more to report of note in an attacking sense.
Celtic had no corners in the first half, the visitors had four as they tried to get back in the game. Scott Bain had one good save and Brown cleared after a dangerous cross from a corner – something Celtic seldom achieve.
The half time whistle sounded after another St Johnstone effort came to nothing and Celtic went in two goals to the good with one foot in the quarter finals.
Oliver Ntcham has been injured in the warm-up and was replaced on the bench by Mikey Johnston and for the start of the second half St Johnstone brought on former Celtic star Tony Watt to lead their attack.
Celtic also made a change at the interval bringing on Kris Ajer for Jozo Simunovic and the second half started in much the same as the first with the pace of the impressive Oli Burke causing all sorts of problems for St Johnstone. The big striker got in behind the Saints defence but this time Clark saved.
Then Jonny Hayes moves forward with purpose to open up the Saints defence and just as we all thought he’d shoot the Irishman slipped the ball to James Forrest who didn’t waste the chance to make it 3-0.
Then on 53 minutes Oli Burke chased a lost cause, collected and got to the byeline where he set up Scotty Sinclair for the easiest goal of his season. Burke turned to the Jock Stein Stand, arms stretched wide, and accepted the acclaim for a wonderful assist.
Earlier in the day we were writing about what Dembele had been saying. Here we’ve been watching a striker that leaves you thinking Moussa who? Burke is some player!
James Forrest tried to set Sinclair up for his hat-trick shortly afterwards but just as the winger was setting himself for the header, Christie intercepted the cross but headed over.
Edouard replaced Christie shortly afterwards as Brendan’s thoughts turned to Valencia. Then Burke took a sore one – without getting a free-kick – and he limped off to be replaced by Timo Weah. Burke was told to go up the tunnel for treatment when he got to the bench.
Jonny Hayes, having his best game in a Celtic shirt, picked up a yellow card from a late tackle.
Jerry Toljan impressed down the right all afternoon and got the chance to play with James Forrest.
On the last play of the game Edouard showed good control inside the box and his blocked shot fell perfectly for Scotty Sinclair to complete his hat-trick.
The stadium announcer told us that the Englishman was our Man of the Match for scoring his latest hat-trick and the referee decided against adding any additional time, a mercy for St Johnstone who must be sick of the sight of Celtic after the third defeat in just over a week.
It was a cold afternoon in Paradise where it finished Celtic 5 St Johnstone 0.