Celtic’s indifferent post title winning form continued this afternoon at Celtic Park when St Mirren took full advantage of a weakened Celtic defence to score twice and create three other very good chances on their limited yet always dangerous forays into the Celtic half.
Tomoki Iwata, a curious choice as a central defender today, and Anthony Ralston got themselves into a terrible mess and Curtis Main took full advantage to give Saints, who had ungraciously declined the opportunity to give the Champions a guard of honour, an unlikely early lead.
Normal service appeared to be restored when Kyogo fired in the equaliser with a stunning shot from the edge of the area. And with Celtic dominating possession it looked like the next goal would for Ange Postecoglou’s side but St Mirren’s Main man had tread the script.
The assistant referee operating at the North Stand side of Celtic Park missed several clear offsides much to the annoyance of the Celtic fans with the same sort of view. And it looked like VAR would intervene after St Mirren had celebrated their second goal of the afternoon but in what must have been a tight call the goal stood.
Celtic huffed and puffed in the second half and surprisingly the manager didn’t look to his bench around the hour mark but ten minutes later he’d seen enough with Maeda, O’Riley and Hatate going off and Ababa, Oh and Hakšabanović coming on to try to rescue the game.
But it was the skipper Callum McGregor who won a point for the Champions and gave the Hoops ten minutes to try to get a winner. Oh hit the post, but the decision making remained suspect and after five minutes of added time it was all over.
Celtic had 77% possession, 21 shots on goal with six on target. The Champions had 14 corners to St Mirren’s two but it was the visitor’s manager who was the happier of the two afterwards.
A frustrated Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou wasn’t impressed by the performance from his side. “It was a tough game. St Mirren worked hard as they have all year and that’s why they are what they are” he told BBC Sportsound.
“We’ve gone off it a little bit the last couple of weeks, particularly the defensive side of the game, and when you do that, it’s very hard then for us to play the football we want to.
“I guarantee 1000% it’s not one player. It’s got nothing to do Cameron Carter-Vickers. We’ve missed Cameron Carter-Vickers before. We played Champions League football without Cameron Carter-Vickers. That’s an easy thing to look at.
“We’re not working as hard off the ball as we were prior to winning the title. When you don’t, that’s what happens, you can’t dominate games of football like we did. We pride ourselves on being relentless and you can’t just be relentless when you have the ball. For us, it’s actually more important we are when we don’t have it and we haven’t been the last couple of weeks.
“We’re champions. I get it that people are so obsessed. The heavyweight champion of the world doesn’t have to win every round but he holds the belt. We hold the belt. People can try and write narratives,” Ange said.
St Mirren manager Stephen Robinson couldn’t believe the number of clear cut chances his side created at Celtic Park. “It’s not often you come to Celtic Park and say you’re disappointed with a point. It shows we’ve come a long way.
“We had some great opportunities and limited Celtic to half chances, which they are always going to create with their quality. We are still in the race for Europe with two games to go, which is a fantastic achievement for everybody at this football club.”
Celtic have a trip to Easter Road in midweek and then the trophy day next Saturday against Aberdeen at Celtic Park before the Scottish Cup Final against Inverness Caley Thistle a week later. And there’s no doubt that Billy Dodds will be very interesting in the problems Celtic have in the heart of their defence.
Bosun Lawal has been training with the first team for several weeks now and as a proper centre-half he might be worth considering for the game against Hibs at Easter Road on Wednesday night. It’s unlikely we’ll see that central defensive partnership of Carl Starfelt and Tomoki Iwata again!
Here’s Ange Postecoglou then Callum McGregor speaking to Celtic TV after the 2-2 draw with St Mirren at Celtic Park this afternoon…