CELTIC DISCOVERED that you cannot play football through a brick wall, as St Johnstone set up a defensive shell which helped them record their first Premier Division victory at Celtic Park.
The evening graphically highlighted the lack of a quality playmaker in the home side, as well as the need for Dr Josef Venglos to invest in a goalscorer. Celtic contributed largely to their own downfall by persisting in a series of high balls towards the edge of the St Johnstone penalty area, which were met comfortably by Darren Dods and Alan Kernaghan.
It was a change of tactics from the passing game Celtic had played against Rangers on Sunday, with long passes aimed at Harald Brattbakk and Henrik Larsson. But the idea was only a partial success, as the policy curtailed the side's midfield creativity.
The champions were soon into their stride, though. Craig Burley engineered the early chance which has become expected of Celtic at home, his 20-yard shot rising over the bar.
St Johnstone, who are under new management in Sandy Clark, the former West Ham and Hearts striker, had genuine pace in attack through Nathan Lowndes. His runs gave Alan Stubbs and Tom Boyd an uncomfortable time, before a head injury forced his withdrawal in the 22nd minute.
Before leaving, the former Watford man joined the celebrations to acclaim a tremendous goal for the Perth side in the 15th minute. Paul Kane pushed a free-kick to Nick Dasovic, and the Canadian's powerful first-time shot flew into the net.
Celtic produced little by way of response, to the increasing frustration of the home support. Paul Lambert and Craig Burley were finding themselves swamped in midfield, preventing a supply of quality passes to the forwards.
Increasingly, St Johnstone retreated into a defensive shell, making life even more difficult for the home side.
Lambert and Burley combined effectively seven minutes after the break to leave Lambert a shooting chance, but Alan Main was equal to the test, producing a flying leap before pushing the ball to safety.
Celtic attempted to change their fortune early in the second half, by bringing on young Mark Burchill for David Hannah. The newcomer was full of running, although his first strike finished well over the bar.
As Celtic continued to struggle St Johnstone were inches away from increasing their lead in the 69th minute, when Kane hit a 20-yard shot which came back off the bar. John O'Neil put the rebound just wide.
Celtic (4-4-2): Gould; Hannah (Burchill, 62), Boyd (Annoni, 68), Stubbs, Mahe; Burley, Jackson, Lambert, Donnelly (McKinlay, 82); Larsson, Brattbakk. Substitutes not used: McCondichie, Riseth.
St Johnstone (4-4-2): Main; McCluskey, Dods, Kernaghan, Bollan; McMahon (Griffin, 80), Kane, Dasovic, O'Neil; Lowndes (Preston, 22), O'Boyle (Grant, 57). Substitutes not used: Whiteford, Ferguson.
Referee: M McCurry (Glasgow).
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies