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 substitutue 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
Celtic return to Scottish Premiership action on 28 December away to Hibernian, live on Sky Sports. Kick-off 8pm.
St Johnstone are at home to Hearts on the same night. That game kicks-off at 7.45pm.