Celtic 1 St Mirren 51: Riordan pounces to spare Celtic blushes

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The Independent Online

It was almost a case of from San Siro to zero for Celtic yesterday, until Derek Riordan rescued the Scottish Premier League leaders by coming off the bench to prevent his team sliding to a first home defeat of the season.

The European hangover from the midweek contest with Milan clung to Gordon Strachan's players all day and would have been worse if Riordan's 85th-minute equaliser had not cancelled out the lead Stephen McGinn had supplied for St Mirren. Riordan was not involved in Milan and this first goal of the season strengthens the unsettled forward's claim for a leading role.

Reaching the last 16 of the Champions' League in midweek has left Celtic free to concentrate on domestic matters until February. Gordon Strachan insists a third successive title is his priority but his side faced a rugged resistance from St Mirren that would frustrate the hosts in the first half.

Only Aiden McGeady offered the running and craft to create openings, conjuring up one fine run that ended with a right-foot shot just clearing the bar. Ten minutes before the interval, McGeady's menace left a cluster of St Mirren defenders in his wake. He then fed Gary Caldwell, whose cross was missed by Chris Smith but the goalkeeper was not punished because Jiri Jarosik was flagged offside as he measured his finish.

The second half brought a greater sense of urgency. A flurry of chances fell like the snow that enveloped the east end of Glasgow, with the closest coming when Jarosik met Paul Hartley's free-kick to thump a header off the post.

McGeady saw a shot saved by Smith before Scott Brown volleyed wide. When Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink fashioned a header straight at the goalkeeper, Strachan felt his side required an injection of fresh thought and sent on Riordan.

His first touch was a volley that was deflected wide but it was St Mirren who broke the deadlock in the 74th minute. Billy Mehmet's surging run upfield ended with a drive that was only parried by Mark Brown, and McGinn pounced.

When Smith acrobatically touched another McGeady shot over the bar it looked as if St Mirren would earn a first victory at Celtic since 1990 but Riordan equalised with minutes left, controlling a diagonal ball from Evander Sno and steering his finish beyond the goalkeeper.

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