Celtic 7-0 Saints

Saturday 3rd August

It was an afternoon to forget for Saints today as they opened their Ladbrokes Premiership season with a 7-0 defeat to the reigning champions Celtic in the east end of Glasgow.

Neil Lennon’s men took the lead on 9 minutes as Mikey Johnston converted after receiving an excellent 20-yard cross-field pass by Ryan Christie.

Christie then got himself on the score sheet on 26 minutes as he sent a left-footed effort into the top right hand corner of the net. The former Inverness Caley Thistle midfielder then got his second of the game 4 minutes later as his strike from the edge of the area deceived Saints ‘keeper Zander Clark.

The Hoops got a fourth on 67 minutes as Christie completed his hat-trick with a 20-yard strike that went in off the bar.

The hosts continued to dominate proceedings as Olivier Ntcham got Celtic’s fifth one minute after coming on to replace Christie.

Celtic’s sixth came with 10 minutes remaining as Edouard converted after rounding Clark. Then substitute Leigh Griffiths got the host’s seventh goal of the game with 4 minutes remaining.

Next up for Saints is a home game against Livingston at McDiarmid Park next Saturday, kick off 2pm.

MATCH REPORT

After a disappointing exit from the Betfred Cup Saints got their Ladbrokes Premiership campaign underway this afternoon as they made the trip west to take on the champions Celtic. Tommy Wright made five changes to the side that was defeated 2-1 at Forfar Athletic last week as Zander Clark, who was making his 100th appearance for Saints this afternoon, Richard Foster, Ross Callachan, Murray Davidson and Michael O’Halloran all came into the starting line-up. They replaced Elliot Parish, Danny Swanson, Ali McCann, Kyle McClean and Callum Hendry who all dropped to the bench. After progressing to the Champions League third qualifying round on Tuesday evening with a 2-0 win (7-0 on aggregate) against Estonian side Nomme Kalju Celtic manager Neil Lennon made seven changes to his starting eleven. Out went Craig Gordon, Leigh Griffiths, Jozo Simunovic, Christopher Jullien, Lewis Morgan, Anthony Ralston and Olivier Ntcham and they were replaced by Scott Bain, Ryan Christie, Odsonne Edouard, Hatem Abd Elhamed, Kristoffer Ajer, Callum McGregor and James Forrest.

Before the match got underway Liz McNeill and Sadie Chalmers, the wives of Lisbon Lions Legends Billy McNeill and Stevie Chalmers who both sadly passed away earlier this year, unfurled the Ladbrokes Premiership Championship Flag.

Saints got the match underway at a sunny Celtic Park but it was Celtic who created the first chance of the match. New Celtic signing Hatem Abd Elhamed and James Forrest linked up well down the right as the former beat the offside trap to break into the box. He then squared to Odsonne Edouard but Wallace Duffy got back to make a brilliant block as he turned the ball behind for a corner.

Then on 8 minutes Abd Elhamed and Forrest linked up well again as the Israel defender picked out Forrest in the box and he turned before firing over.

However, a minute later the hosts took the lead. A long cross-field ball by Ryan Christie picked out Mikey Johnston and he broke into the box. The attacker twisted and turned as he tried to get away from Duffy before unleashing a low shot that beat Zander Clark and nestled in the right-hand corner of the net.

On 12 minutes Neil Lennon’s men created another opening as Forrest broke into the box before having a shot which Clark saved with his feet as he turned the ball behind for another corner. It was proving to be one-way traffic in the open stages and 2 minutes later Boli Bolingoli broke down the left before seeing his delivery into the Saints box turned behind for a corner which the Saints rearguard comfortably dealt with.

Celtic doubled their advantage on 26 minutes as Forrest played the ball to Ryan Christie and from the edge of the area he sent a good left-footed effort past Clark and into the top right-hand corner of the net.

Then on the half an hour mark Celtic capped off a dominant first half display as they got a third. Clark initially made a good save to deny Edouard however, play continued and Forrest cut the ball back Christie, who was on the edge of the Saints box, and the midfielder decided to have a shot at goal which deceived Clark as it slipped past him for Christie’s second of the match.

On 33 minutes Saints created a chance to pull a goal back as Matty Kennedy sent over an inviting cross from the left which Ross Callachan was inches away from making a connection with as the ball went out for a goal kick.

3 minutes before half time Abd Elhamed did well to win the ball from Kennedy before picking out Forrest in the centre of the box but he dragged his effort wide of Clark’s goal. Then shortly after Forrest was at it again but this time Clark made a great one-handed save to deny the Scotland internationalist. Celtic still had time to create another chance as right on half time Edouard went on a good run across the edge of the Saints box, evading several challenges, before unleashing his effort that hit the side netting.

Before the second half got underway Saints made a change as Ali McCann came on for Ross Callachan.

It was a much quieter opening to the second half as neither side created anything on significance in the opening stages.

Just before the hour mark Saints were awarded a free kick after Murray Davidson was fouled by Kristoffer Ajer. It was taken by Liam Craig and the Saints midfielder played a neat one-two with Richard Foster before having a strike from distance which didn’t trouble Scott Bain in the home goal.

It got even worse for Saints on 67 minutes as Celtic got a fourth. A pass from Johnston picked out Christie, who was in space on the edge of the area, and he unleashed a great left-footed effort from 20 yards that crashed in off the crossbar as the midfielder completed his hat-trick.

Neil Lennon then made a change on 71 minutes as he brought off his hat-trick hero to a standing ovation as Christie was replaced by Olivier Ntcham and it wasn’t long until the midfielder was involved in the action. A minute later Edouard played a good pass to his fellow countryman Ntcham and the Frenchman advanced into the box before coolly slotting past Clark for Celtic’s fifth of the afternoon.

With 12 minutes remaining Murray Davidson was booked for a late challenge on Hoops captain Scott Brown. The resultant free kick was taken by substitute Leigh Griffiths but his low effort was well held by Clark.

Celtic then made it six on 80 minutes as Griffiths played a good through-ball to Edouard who was one-on-one with Clark and he calmly rounded the Saints number 1 before slotting into the empty net.

It was truly an afternoon to forgot for Tommy Wright’s men and with four minutes remaining Celtic made it seven. A good pass by Ntcham pick out Griffiths on the edge of the box, before the striker struck low under Clark and into the net to pile on the misery for Tommy Wright’s men.

Celtic: Bain, Bitton, Brown, Christie (Ntcham 71), Johnston (Griffiths 76), Edouard, Bolingoli, Abd Elhamed (Ralston 51), Ajer, McGregor, Forrest

Unused Substitutes: Gordon (GK), Sinclair, Hayes, Morgan

Booked: None

Scorers: Johnston (9), Christie (26, 30, 67), Ntcham (72), Edouard (80), Griffiths (86)

Saints: Clark, Duffy, Tanser, Callachan (McCann 45), Vihmann, Davidson, Kerr, O’Halloran, Foster, Craig, Kennedy (Hendry 65)

Unused Substitutes: Parish (GK), Anderson, Swanson, McClean, Northcott

Booked: Kennedy, Foster, Davidson

Referee: Kevin Clancy

Attendance: 58,877

Match Report by Daryl Scott

Picture: Michael O’Halloran closes down Scott Bain