Celtic prevailed here with bursts of accomplishment. St Johnstone sought to diminish the best of them by applying effort and commitment to the task of standing firm, but in the end they could not narrow every space. The home side were quick to exploit every glimpse of an opening.
At the heart of what was most stirring you found Shaun Maloney. The midfielder scored two goals and created another, as if this match was placed before him as invitation to reveal the depths of his talent. There is a scurrying quality to this squat footballer, but also an alert, sometimes emphatic cunning.
Maloney's devilment and adroit cross created the first goal for Marc-Antoine Fortuné, who placed a shot beyond Alan Main to break his Celtic duck. It was possible to feel in the noise that rose so urgently out this old ground a stirring sense of relief – Fortuné has been looking alarmingly forlorn in these early days of his Celtic career.
For all St Johnstone's stoicism, the home side were suddenly vibrant and Andreas Hinkel surged down the right before crossing for Maloney, who steered a header past Main. St Johnstone might have been despondent, but a wretched, malign sense of misfortune has begun to cling to Gary Caldwell and the Celtic defender botched a header, allowing Collin Samuel to score with a low drive.
The interval brought focus to Celtic and two quick goals effectively brought the contest to a close. Maloney struck first, running at the heart of the defence before hitting a low shot past Main. Then Fortuné converted Aiden McGeady's sly through ball.
As if affronted that others were among the goals, the predatory Scott McDonald headed in Danny Fox's cross. Then Jody Morris exploited negligence in the Celtic penalty area to force home a consolation goal.
"I'd have preferred 5-0, but the goals and the possession will be good for the confidence of the team," said Celtic's manger, Tony Mowbray.
The afternoon, though, belonged to the artful Maloney.Reuse content