Saints bring Celtic back down to earth

Celtic 1 St Johnstone 1

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The Independent Football

Celtic have taken just two points from the last nine available in the Scottish Premier League and now lie two behind leaders Hibernian after being held at home by St Johnstone – who had been recently walloped 5-0 in the same venue in the Scottish Communities League Cup quarter-finals.

If there was a sense of anti-climax inside Celtic Park after the historic 2-1 win over Barcelona on Wednesday night it was not laid aside even when the Champions League matchwinner Tony Watt, on at the break for Miku, put the home side ahead. Celtic remained unconvincing and Nigel Hasselbaink levelled for the Saints in the 77th minute.

The St Johnstone manager, Steve Lomas, saw the goal from the stand after being dismissed from the dugout for remonstrating with referee Iain Brine over his decision to allow Watt back on to the field after treatment.

The Celtic manager, Neil Lennon, who had warned against just such a lacklustre display as his side produced, could not begrudge the Perth side their point.

There was a perfectly observed minute's silence for Remembrance Day before the match and the near silence continued as the opening exchanges took place in front of a vastly reduced attendance. Yet, Lomas's side, with Steven MacLean leading the line well, appeared in positive mood.

Watt, who had come on as a substitute to score against Barça, did so again when he put Celtic ahead six minutes after the break. Charlie Mulgrew's searching pass reached the striker, who prodded the ball over the line from a couple of yards out.

Just before the hour, a speculative shot from Dave Mackay dipped a yard wide of Fraser Forster's left-hand post and in the 75th minute the Saints appealed for a penalty when Celtic's Efe Ambrose clashed with Gregory Tade.

With 13 minutes to go the Celtic defence looked uneasy when Mackay's ball came into the box and when it eventually fell to Hasselbaink he turned and drove it past Forster. St Johnstone, unsurprisingly, were forced to defend in the closing stages but they deservedly held out for a point.

Celtic: Forster; Matthews, Ambrose (McGeouch, 84), Wilson, Mulgrew, Brown, Wanyama, Ledley (Kayal, 70), Commons, Miku (Watt, h-t), Samaras.

St Johnstone: Mannus; MacKay, McCracken (Miller, 6), Wright, C Davidson, Millar, M Davidson, Robertson (Tade, 71), Craig, Hasselbaink (Vine, 84), MacLean.

Referee: I Brines (Scotland).