Five things we learned from St Johnstone 0 - 2 Celtic
Celtic showed why they got those extra attacking options in January
This is a game Celtic would have drawn earlier in the season. Though they were firmly on top, they couldn’t find a way past Saints goalkeeper Zander Clark. This was particularly true of leading attacker Oliver Burke who, while playing well, was having one of those days in front of goal.
With time beginning to tick away, Brendan Rodgers introduced Odsonne Edouard for the on loan West Brom player, only to then see Edouard injured within minutes and forced off.
Had this been earlier in the season, where Celtic carried only two strikers in their first-team squad, this would have been a significant blow as it would’ve left them with no natural forward to lead the line. Instead, it was no big deal; Timonthy Weah would come on instead.
The American was excellent in his time on the park: setting up the first goal by terrifically controlling a long ball before crossing for James Forrest, and then sealing the points with a strike of his own.
With fellow new signing Vakoun Issouf Bayo still to get his chance and Leigh Griffiths to return it may seem like an embarrassment of riches, but the club is determined to get eight-in-a-row and these January additions have given them the firepower they need in order to ensure that.
You can’t switch off for a second against the champions
How many times does it have to be said? You cannot switch off against the best, not even for a second.
For St Johnstone, the offender on this occasion was left-back Scott Tanser, who allowed James Forrest to sneak in at the back post and net Weah’s cross. Celtic’s second came on the counter-attack with the hosts chasing the game, so ultimately this was the goal that won the contest.
You could see from the defender’s reaction that he wanted a shout from one of his team-mates to clear the ball early and not wait for it to come on to his left foot, but he should be attacking the cross regardless.
While bailed out by their goalkeeper on occasion, the hosts had defended superbly in a match where their front players couldn’t do enough to make the ball stick down the other end and relieve the pressure on the back-line. Unfortunately, defending well for the majority just isn’t enough against Rodgers’ men.
Zander Clark stated his case for future Scotland selection - but so did Scott Bain
St Johnstone fans have been often disgruntled with past Scotland squads as their No.1 continues to be looked over. They’ll be hoping that Clark’s performance in this match, televised live on Sky Sports, will do enough to convince Alex McLeish that he’s worthy of a place when the next squad is announced prior to the beginning of the 2020 European Championships qualifying campaign.
However, they may be disappointed once more seeing as a prior selection which kept Clark out of the fold was that of Scott Bain, who has now played his way into the No.1 jersey at Celtic Park. While he didn’t have as many eye-catching saves as Clark, it was another solid performance from the ex-Dundee goalkeeper as he continues to convince supporters and his manager that he’s the best option the champions have.
Seeing as Bain was the selection before, with Allan McGregor assured of a spot, Craig Gordon still likely to be involved due to his prior service and Sunderland stopper Jon McLaughlin still in the mix, it appears it’s going to be difficult for Clark to break in on this occasion, regardless of form.
It was far too soon to write off Brown
After the defeat to Rangers at the end of 2018, many observers which quick to speculate whether Scott Brown’s “legs had gone” and he was done as a marquee Celtic player. Seeing as he’d previously silenced the doubters the last time this narrative popped up - which, not coincidentally, occurred the last time Celtic lost to Rangers - this was a foolish thing to do.
Since the winter break Brown has been playing near his best and he turned in another star showing at McDiarmid Park. Not only did he perform the “spoiler” role in front of the back four effectively, as he dispossessed opponents continuously throughout the 90 minutes and halted St Johnstone attacks before they got started, he also showed enough energy to get forward and contribute to the attack. The new two-year contract is already looking like a good piece of business.
Kennedy is among the league’s best attackers
The former Hibs winger, who didn’t do much of anything at Easter Road, has blossomed since arriving at McDiarmid Park in the summer. A changing of positions has helped, as he was moved from the left-wing to a second striker behind Tony Watt earlier in the season, which seemed to make the most of his creative qualities.
Though he was back out on the flank for the visit of Celtic, as Tommy Wright elected to pack the midfield in a 4-5-1, his inflated confidence enabled him to still shine as he was certainly the home side’s biggest threat throughout the 90 minutes.
He will feel he should have given Saints the lead in the opening exchanges, when he aimed his finish too close to Bain, but the chance wouldn’t have presented itself in the first place were it not for his willingness to take up possession in the centre and drive at the opposition defence.
He later put a perfect cross on a place for Watt, only for the former Celtic star to miss the ball completely with his attempt at a header in front of goal.
Whether playing inside or out, in a team on top or defending deep, he’s a threat that must be respected at all times.