Celtic 4-1 St Johnstone Reo Hatate and Kyogo Furuhashi doubles restore Hoops’ advantage at top of the table

Match report as Reo Hatate and Kyogo Furuhashi both scored two to put Celtic in a commanding position at the top of the table; questions asked of VAR after long delay for Celtic’s fourth goal with Hatate clearly onside; David Turnbull was red carded for a high boot in stoppage-time

Celtic restored their nine-point lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership with a comfortable 4-1 win over St Johnstone on Christmas Eve.

Reo Hatate (14, 52) and Kyogo Furuhashi (18, 40) scored two each before Jay Wright (67) got one back for the visitors as Celtic put on a dominant display to respond to Rangers’ 1-0 win over Ross County on Friday night.

There was more criticism for VAR as Hatate’s second goal and Celtic’s fourth, which was initially ruled offside, took the officials nearly three minutes to deliberate over even though he appeared to be clearly onside.

The technology later played a role in the sending off of Celtic substitute David Turnbull in stoppage-time after he connected with St Johnstone goalkeeper Remi Matthews’ head with a high boot.

Celtic have put themselves in a commanding position in the table with their 11th consecutive win in the league ahead of the Old Firm on January 2, live on Sky Sports Football, as they look to defend their crown.


How Celtic eased to an early Christmas victory

Celtic twice came close in the first 10 minutes with Kyogo’s close-range header denied by St Johnstone goalkeeper Matthews and Matt O’Riley missing the target from inside the area after a pass from Callum McGregor.

The hosts’ pressure quickly told when Hatate fired Celtic into the lead after 14 minutes with a swerving strike that caught Matthews out at his near post. Within four minutes, Kyogo doubled Celtic’s lead with a neat flick in the six-yard box.

Kyogo popped up again from close range just before the break as he got on the end of James Forrest’s low cross to make it 3-0. He’s now scored three goals in his last two games.

VAR took centre stage in Scotland again as Hatate’s second was incorrectly ruled out for offside following a slick Celtic move which culminated with a neat flick from McGregor to set up the Japanese midfielder. It took the officials checking the goal more than two minutes to decide over what appeared to be a straightforward decision.

Read More : Ross County 0-1 Rangers John Lundstram’s strike secures victory as Michael Beale maintains winning start

Team news
Celtic boss made three changes after Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Livingston.
With Anthony Ralston injured and Josip Juranovic not back from the World Cup, Reo Hatate filled in at right-back.
Aaron Mooy returned to the starting line-up as James Forrest and Diazen Maeda replaced Liel Abada and Jota.

Hatate was filling in at right-back with Croatia’s Josip Juranovic not back from the World Cup and Anthony Ralston injured, but the midfielder still managed to equal his goals tally for the entire season.

Hoops boss Ange Postecoglou felt Hatate was “outstanding” in his adopted role, saying: “There weren’t too many options, so we had to get creative. He’s a smart footballer and he played left-back earlier in his career.

“He’s not a full-back that’s for sure, but my feeling is that whatever negative stuff it brings defensively because he’s not used to playing there, he’ll give us more going forward. That’s what he provided but he was disciplined defensively.”

Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart did his best to keep a clean sheet, producing two saves in quick succession from close-range, before Wright clawed one back in the 67th minute for St Johnstone, who sit fifth in the table.

On an otherwise perfect afternoon for Celtic, there was a late setback when Turnbull was sent off 15 minutes after he came off the bench for a reckless high boot on St Johnstone ‘keeper Matthews.

The VAR advised Kevin Clancy to go to his monitor to review the incident and he subsequently produced a red card, which means the midfielder will miss the Old Firm game against Rangers on January 2.





Postecoglou: We need to keep getting stronger

Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou:

“I’m really pleased. I thought it was a strong performance and we started the game well. We controlled it and looked threatening every time we went forward.

“Now there’s a real hunger among the boys to create chances and score goals. Credit to them, I thought it was a strong performance against a strong team that was obviously in good form

“We’ve been good, the lads have been consistent. We need to keep improving. It’s just about the results. It is a good position to be in but in the full knowledge that we have to be stronger as the season goes on.”

Davidson: There’s a spirit in this group

St Johnstone manager Callum Davidson:

“I probably take a bit of responsibility myself. We obviously came with two strikers, two advanced midfielders and attacking wing-backs. So I obviously wanted to try and have a go and press them a little bit higher.

“I thought at times we did it well, but when we got it wrong they exposed us in behind, which they are really good at. Ultimately, the first half was one of those games where you come to Parkhead and it’s shot after shot after shot.

“I thought we at times managed to force Celtic into mistakes and force them into areas where we could actually expose them. Second half I thought it was great resilience from the players, I think last year we got beat quite heavily but this year we stuck in.

“There’s a real spirit in the group which will carry us forward into the season. It is a tough place to come. We walk away and they are not our fight. We have some big games coming up and we will be ready to go.”

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