Match Report by Ross Gardiner
Saints headed into Wednesday night's clash with Celtic looking for a second win on the bounce.
Despite the champions being awarded three stands, the Perth side had their eyes on as many points to build on a fine win over Kilmarnock on Saturday.
Zander Clark did well to keep an early Odsonne Eduard drive out at the second attempt, with the slippery surface underfoot making controlling the ball difficult.
Leigh Griffiths gave Saints another early scare as Neil Lennon’s men ramped up the pressure, but the Scotland forward’s close range header crept wide.
And the pressure paid off on five minutes as Olivier Ntcham headed past Clark from point blank range.
A tangle of legs kept out Griffiths in seven minutes and Clark pounced to keep out another visiting attack moments later. Celtic were looking to make it a long night for the hosts.
Saints were up for the challenge though and after great composure from Wotherspoon, the Canadian picked out O’Halloran on the wing. The former Rangers man cut inside and found the target but his effort was too tame to trouble Fraser Forster.
Ali McCann was next to test the Champions’ stopper with an ambitious volley which stung Forster’s palms but couldn't beat the towering English 'keeper.
McCann linked up well from the distribution to feed Hendry whose Cruyff turn left Ntcham for dead. The striker fed Wotherspoon whose cross came to nothing after an attack that deserved much more.
But Celtic doubled their lead on 20 minutes through James Forrest, a regular thorn in the Perth club’s side, who lashed across goal into the inside side netting.
Griffiths won possession in the box with a powerful lunge but Zander was on hand to tip his emphatic strike wide.
And Callum McGregor should have made it three on 25 minutes before fluffing his lines but Leigh Griffiths did make it 3-0 when the half-clearance was returned to a green and white shirt.
Saints did well to steady the ship after that and Jason Holt fired an ambitious volley at goal on half-time but struck with more venom than accuracy.
Saints made two changes at the interval, handing a debut to Jamie McCart as well as bringing on Liam Craig at the expense of Holt and Booth.
Cal Hendry pounced on a loose Celtic ball and cut inside beating two men before shooting at goal. Had the strikers effort had as much sting as O’Hallorans blocked attempt moments later, it may have had enough to get past Forster.
After shipping three goals in the opening half hour, Perth men made it to sixty minutes without conceding and looked the better team in the opening period of the second half, getting forward well and retaining possession confidently.
Saints last switch came just after the hour mark, as Chris Kane replaced Hendry.
The best chance for Tommy Wright's men came on 77 minutes when Wotherspoon forced a splendid save from Forster from the edge of the 18-yard-box.
O’Halloran was then a millisecond from bullet headering a consolation goal, with McCann’s secondary cross picking out the offside Kane.
Wotherspoon tried a dipping volley in the dying embers as Saints showed how to regain composure after a tough start. The Perth side had dominated the entire second half but three first half goals were enough for Celtic to take the points back to Glasgow.
SAINTS: Zander Clark, Jason Kerr (c), Liam Gordon, Callum Booth (Jamie McCart 45), Wallace Duffy, Scott Tanser, Jason Holt (Liam Craig 45), Ali McCann, David Wotherspoon, Michael O'Halloran, Callum Hendry (Chris Kane 62)
UNUSED SUBS: Elliott Parish, Danny Swanson, Stevie May, Jordan Northcott
CELTIC: Fraser Forster, Christopher Jullien, Kristoffer Ajer, Jozo Simunovic (Moritz Bauer 45), Greg Taylor, James Forrest, Scott Brown, Olivier Ntcham, Callum McGregor, Leigh Griffiths (Mikey Johnston 67), Odsonne Edouard (Patryk Klimala 82)
UNUSED SUBS: Craig Gordon, Jonny Hayes, Ryan Christie, Tom Rogic
SCORERS: Ntcham (6), Forrest (20), Griffiths (26)
REFEREE: John Beaton
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