ALL THE GOALS
Saturday, August 3, 2019
Celtic Park, Glasgow
(Johnston 9, Christie 26, 30, 68, Ntcham 73, Edouard 80, Griffiths 87)
ST JOHNSTONE… 0
CELTIC marked their eighth consecutive Flag Day at Paradise today (Saturday) with a fantastic 7-0 victory over St Johnstone. An emphatic hat-trick from Ryan Christie, and goals from Mikey Johnston, Olivier Ntcham, Odsonne Edouard and Leigh Griffiths paid deference to the occasion, as the Hoops kicked off their league title defence in style.
Neil Lennon’s side passed the ball from the back with confidence from kick-off, before gradually pushing their opponents deep into their own half. On three minutes, Callum McGregor combined with Hatem Abd Elhamed – the right-back making his Celtic debut – before switching the play to Boli Bolingoli on the opposite flank.
The Belgian drove from the inside-left channel and slipped a weighted pass through to Ryan Christie, whose resulting shot was well blocked by Wallace Duffy.
Moments later, James Forrest received a neat through ball on the right from Elhamed, before spraying a low ball towards Odsonne Edouard in front of goal. The Frenchman’s flick from six yards was again cleared by the visitors.
From there, the Scottish champions enjoyed an extended spell of possession as they continued to press high up the pitch. Elhamed looked settled and confident throughout, and a handful of half-chances fell to Christie, Forrest and Mikey Johnston.
Ahead of the 10-minute mark, it was Johnston who broke the deadlock, when Christie picked out the 20-year-old with a sublime 20-yard pass into the penalty area. A neat piece of footwork allowed the attacker on to his right-foot, before firing low into the net.
A well-organised St Johnstone defended with discipline, but in doing so allowed Neil Lennon’s men to play much of their football in the final third.
On 26 minutes, the Hoops’ high-press produced another fine goal when Nir Bitton played out from the back to Forrest, who shifted the ball inside to Christie. The 24-year-old steadied himself on the edge of the box, before firing a deft left-foot across and over the goalkeeper with typical power and precision.
Four minutes after that, a prolific Christie doubled his tally to score Celtic’s third of the day. Moments after denying Edouard with a strong left hand, Saints stopper Zander Clark was deceived by a 20-yard effort from the 24-year-old towards the centre of goal. Nevertheless, Christie showed great composure to convert Forrest’s rolled pass first-time with the outside of his foot, much to the delight of the Paradise faithful.
The Scottish champions continued to dominate play ad the half wore on, and on 41 minutes Forrest was unlucky not to make it four. An increasingly confident Elhamed showed great strength to out-muscle Scott Tanser on the right wing and square the ball to Forrest, but the 27-year-old dragged his first-time effort wide of the mark.
One minute after that, Forrest forced a fine right-handed save from Clark, and two minutes later, Edouard showed remarkable footwork before sending a strong right-foot into the side-netting.
A buoyant Celtic went into the break three goals to the good, and returned with similar drive and directness. St Johnstone sought to frustrate Celtic in the final third by doubling up on the likes of Christie and Johnston.
After a stuffy first quarter of an hour, Edouard combined with Bolingoli on the right ahead of the hour mark, when the tireless left-back got in behind the St Johnstone defence. The visitors cleared, and, one minute on, Johnston had a shot from left of goal cleared by the last defender.
On 68 minutes, Christie grabbed his third of the afternoon with another mouth-watering finish. After receiving the ball from Johnston 20 yards from goal, Christie unleashed an immaculate left-foot effort that grazed the crossbar on its way into the net.
Celtic Park erupted, and cheered longer still when the hat-trick hero made way for Olivier Ntcham on 71 minutes. Two minutes after that, the fresh-legged Frenchman made it five – finding the net with his first touch of the game.
After collecting the ball in the centre of the pitch, Edouard bore down on goal, with Forrest and Ntcham to his right and left. He chose the latter option, and his countryman duly tucked the ball inside the goalkeeper’s near post.
On for goalscorer Johnston, it wasn’t long before Leigh Griffiths made his presence felt with a deft through-ball to Edouard with 10 minutes of normal remaining. Quick off the mark, the 21-year-old forward rounded Clark and converted Celtic’s sixth of the afternoon.
And the onslaught didn’t stop there, as Griffiths joined the scoresheet three minutes from time. Ntcham showed great vision to pick out the striker on the edge of the box, before he struck low under Clark and into the net.
With seven goals and five different scorers, Neil Lennon’s men ensured it was a Flag Day to remember.
CELTIC: Bain; Elhamed (Ralston 50), Bitton, Ajer, Bolingoli; Brown, McGregor, Forrest, Christie (Ntcham 71), Johnston (Griffiths 76); Edouard
Subs not used: Gordon, Sinclair, Hayes, Morgan
ST JOHNSTONE: Clark, Duffy, Tanser, Callachan, Vihmann, Davidson, Kerr, O’Halloran, Foster, Craig, Kennedy (Hendry 65)
Subs not used: Parish, Anderson, Sawnson, McCann, McClean, Northcott