Celtic 3-0 St Mirren: Second-half goals extend Scottish Premiership lead to put pressure on Rangers


Celtic's Kyogo Furuhashi wheels away after scoring
Kyogo Furuhashi scored his 16th goal of the season to put Celtic 2-0 ahead

Celtic moved four points clear at the top of the Scottish Premiership as they came to life in the second half to overcome stubborn St Mirren.

After failing to muster an effort on target before the break, the reigning champions settled the game with two sublime finishes from Japan duo Reo Hatate and Kyogo Furuhashi within 15 minutes of the restart.

Adam Idah’s close-range header in the closing stages was the icing on the cake – as well as a boost to their goal difference.

It was harsh on the visitors who would have gone in at half-time believing they had a great chance of a first victory over Celtic since January 2021.

But Brendan Rodgers’ side emerged as worthy victors to pile pressure on city rivals Rangers, who travel to face Ross County on Sunday before playing their other game in hand in Dundee on Wednesday.

The Northern Irishman had been looking for his side to supply the kind of early intensity that had title rivals Rangers on the back foot and two behind on Sunday.

Counterpart Stephen Robinson had dropped top scorer Mikael Mandron to the bench directly to counter that in what he viewed as a crucial opening 20 minutes.

And it was the Buddies who will have been more happy with the start as they contained the early onslaught, despite the loss of right-back Elvis Bwomono to a head knock, while threatening on the occasional break.

Indeed, they did more than just contain. By half-time, Celtic could not muster at attempt on target against a defence superbly marshalled by Alex Gogic.

At the other end, Greg Kiltie failed to finish from a fine cross then Gogic strode imperiously forward to set up Toyosi Olusanya only for the striker to lash wide.

St Mirren, though, were dealt a double blow as left-back Scott Tanser was forced off at half-time, with Jaden Brown his replacement, and Kiltie followed moments into the second half to be replaced with Lewis Jamieson.

Seconds later and Celtic broke the deadlock as right-back Alistair Johnston set up Hatate for a precise side-footed drive into the top corner from the edge of the penalty box.

All of a sudden, the wind of change was blowing Celtic bodies – as well as piles of rubbish – into the St Mirren penalty box.

An unmarked Kyogo had already somehow flicked a header wide from a Johnston cross before the two combined again, only for the Japan striker to this time nod powerfully past Zach Hemming.

Hemming’s goal was now under siege and it was no surprise when substitute striker Idah was on hand to finish on the rebound after the goalkeeper had blocked from Matt O’Riley.

Player of the match – Reo Hatate (Celtic)

Celtic's Reo Hatate celebrates his goal
St Mirren centre-back Alex Gogic owned the first half, but Reo Hatate remained Celtic’s shining light before and after the midfielder excellent opening goal sparked the hosts into life

Tale of two halves – analysis

Rodgers’ buoyant mood shortly before kick off will have darkened by half time, but whatever was said in the dressing room at the break ensured he had a spring in his step again by the final whistle.

St Mirren threatened a first home defeat since Hearts’ visit in December, but that is now nine without loss since then, eight of them victories, as his side throw down the gauntlet to their city rivals in the title race.

The ability to throw on quality substitutes, including a captain, Callum McGregor, held in reserve because of a lack of match fitness, was perhaps the deciding factor against a side who had lost two key players a couple of minutes into the second half.

St Mirren manager Stephen Robinson will take heart from his side’s first-half performance, but there will be few other positives.

Kilmarnock’s win over St Johnstone means the fifth-top Buddies find themselves eight adrift in the race for a possible European qualifying place.

They have now lost all four meetings with Celtic by an aggregate of 10-1 and have now only beaten the Glasgow side once in 35 meetings.

What’s next?

Celtic face Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup semi-final in a week’s time (12:30 BST) while both they and St Mirren await news of their first top-six fixtures after the Premiership splits into two sections for the final five games.

Line-ups

Celtic

Formation 4-3-3

  • 1Hart
  • 2Johnston
  • 20Carter-Vickers
  • 17NawrockiSubstituted forWelshat 65′minutes
  • 3Taylor
  • 33O’Riley
  • 24IwataSubstituted forMcGregorat 71′minutes
  • 41HatateSubstituted forGonçalves Bernardoat 71′minutes
  • 10KühnSubstituted forForrestat 80′minutes
  • 8FuruhashiSubstituted forIdahat 72′minutes
  • 13YangSubstituted forPalmaat 71′minutes

Substitutes

  • 4Lagerbielke
  • 7Palma
  • 9Idah
  • 28Gonçalves Bernardo
  • 29Bain
  • 42McGregor
  • 49Forrest
  • 56Ralston
  • 57Welsh

St Mirren

Formation 3-5-2

  • 1Hemming
  • 22Fraser
  • 13GogicBooked at 37mins
  • 5TaylorSubstituted forDunneat 83′minutes
  • 42BwomonoSubstituted forStrainat 23′minutesBooked at 25mins
  • 17BaccusSubstituted forScottat 83′minutes
  • 6O’Hara
  • 15Boyd-Munce
  • 3TanserSubstituted forBrownat 45′minutes
  • 20OlusanyaSubstituted forMandronat 72′minutes
  • 11KiltieSubstituted forJamiesonat 50′minutes

Substitutes

  • 2Bolton
  • 9Mandron
  • 10McMenamin
  • 14Scott
  • 18Dunne
  • 21Brown
  • 23Strain
  • 24Jamieson
  • 27Urminsky

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