A statement of intent from Celtic on flag day
Celtic kicked off their 2019-20 league campaign by sending a message to potential usurpers to their throne by slaying St.Johnstone 7-0 in what was a clear statement of intent by the nine-in-a-row chasing side.
The opening day of the season started like the previous seven for Celtic as they unfurled the Scottish Premiership flag - this year with the widows of Celtic greats Billy McNeill and Stevie Chalmers doing the honours.
All the talk before Saturday’s game was of the resurgence of Rangers under Steven Gerrard, how Celtic’s slow transfer business was slow and that they were rip for the taking.
How the usual suspects and poodles in the press were wrong. Wrong in a big way once again.
Last season was a tumultuous one - kicking off with Dedryck Boyata spitting the dummy, AEK Athens knocking us out of the Champions League and then Brendan Rodgers pissing all over his legacy by quitting the club for a mid-table Leicester City side rather than sealing a historic treble treble - an honour that fell to Neil Lennon and he deserved it for answering Celtic’s call in it’s hour of need.
Critics of Lennon were quick to rubbish his permanent appointment less than an hour after the Cup Final victory, but there was an answer to them and it was emphatic with the Perth Saints on the wrong end of Celtic’s thunder.
Story of the Game
New signing Hatem Abd Elhamed was looking to make an immediate impact on his Celtic debut within just three minutes as he found his way in the box and fired a ball across the face of goal. Minutes later and Elhamed again fired a cross ball towards Ryan Christie who could only fire his shot over the bar.
Celtic were all over St.Johnstone and finally found the breakthrough just nine minutes into the game as Mikey Johnston cut inside from the left wing before firing a shot past Zander Clark in goal.
James Forrest and Odsonne Edouard then tested the visitor’s backline but Clark denied the Scotland international and Edouard had to settle for a corner from his header.
Celtic pushed forward looking to add to their tally, while the backline looked mere passengers. It was that comfortable for Celtic the backline and goalkeeper could have taken a seat in the stand to enjoy the festivities.
Just before the half hour mark, Ryan Christie made it 2-0 to Celtic and minutes later Christie again was on the scoresheet as he latched onto a cutback from James Forrest.
Zander Clark denied Forrest and then Bitton minutes before the break, but the game was over for the visitors as the reigning Scottish champions left the field at half time to a standing ovation.
Celtic were forced to make a change just five minutes after the restart when Elhamed went off with a dead leg and Anthony Ralston coming on in his place. The Israeli’s own performance should silence those football managerial greats within the Celtic support who criticised his signing and claims that he was simply not good enough for the club. Hopefully, he will be fit for the trip to Romania to face Cluj this coming week.
Ryan Christie proved that he is going to be a major player for Celtic this season as he ensured that he would take home the match ball with wonder strike to seal his hattrick.
Mikey Johnstone laid the ball off to Christie who fired home past Zander Clarke who was having a horrendous day between the sticks.
The hat trick hero came off on 71 minutes to a deserved standing ovation and congratulations from Lennon, with Olivier Ntcham replacing him and almost immediately the Frenchman got on the scoresheet.
On 75 minutes, Leigh Griffiths replaced youngster Mikey Johnston and the substitute provided an assist to his strike partner, as Edouard rounded Clark to make it 6-0 to the champions.
Celtic were denied a penalty on 83 minutes when McGregor went down in the box, and Edouard was denied his second of the game soon after.
However, Celtic were not to be denied their seventh of the game as Leigh Griffiths fired a left footed strike from outside the box on 86 minutes.
St.Johnstone were the visitors to Celtic Park in May 1998 when Celtic beat them 2-0 to stop Rangers 1872 from winning ten-in-a-row and it looks like the visitors helped to kick off what looks to be Celtic’s nine-in-a-row championship and on Saturday’s form no one will be betting against Celtic lifting the title come May 2020.
Celtic XI: Bain, Elhamed (Ralston 51),Bitton, Ajer, Bolingoli Mbombo, Brown, McGregor, Forrest, Christie (Ntcham 71), Johnston (Griffiths 76), Edouard.
Subs Not Used: Gordon, Sinclair, Hayes, Morgan.
St Johnstone XI: Clark, Foster, Duffy, Vihmann, Kerr, Tanser, Davidson, Craig, Callachan (McCann 46), O'Halloran, Kennedy (Hendry 65).
Subs Not Used: Anderson, Swanson, Parish, McClean, Northcott.