Late Hasselbaink strike gives St Johnstone an unlikely share of the spoils
St Johnstone 1 Celtic 1:A late strike by substitute Nigel Hasselbaink gave St Johnstone an unlikely share of the spoils against Celtic at McDiarmid Park last night.
In the 37th minute of a first-half controlled by the champions, defender Efe Ambrose scored his second goal in two games after costing the Hoops twice in their 3-0 Champions League last-16 defeat against Juventus a week ago.
The Perth side, who had deprived Celtic of five points in their previous two meetings this season, made a better fist of the second-half and had the ball in the net twice, only to see both efforts ruled out for offside but with eight minutes remaining Hasselbaink, on for Rowan Vine, curled a fantastic shot past Fraser Forster to stun the Parkhead side.
Celtic will still win the title after going 19 points clear of Motherwell but manager Neil Lennon will be unhappy with the dropping of two points in a game that should have been over by the interval.
The Hoops boss made one change to his side for the trip to Perth with striker Lassad Nouioui in for Anthony Stokes who started on the bench.
Steve Lomas’s team showed two changes with defender Tom Scobbie in for Callum Davidson, who dropped to the bench, and Michael Doughty in for midfielder Murray Davidson was out with an injured ankle.
Celtic started in the same vein as Saturday, when they crushed Dundee United 6-2 at Parkhead. Their first chance arrived in the second minute when Kris Commons’ toe-poke put in striker Gary Hooper but the former Scunthorpe striker’s shot was blocked by the foot of Saints keeper Alan Mannus. The Northern Irishman again came to the rescue two minutes later when Hooper got through to take a Charlie Mulgrew pass out of the air, the goalkeeper again saving with his feet.
The visitors were in complete control and in the sixth minute Lassad headed an Emilio Izaguirre cross past the far post from around eight yards.The home side continued to dominate but in the 27th minute some slack play in his own penalty area by Ambrose allowed Mehdi Abeid to rob him, but the St Johnstone midfielder’s turn and drive hit the side netting.
Celtic raced up the park and Victor Wanyama set up Joe Ledley with a measured pass which dissected the Saints defence but the midfielder’s angled-drive was saved by Mannus.
In the 82nd minute, however, the Perth side got just rewards for their second-half efforts when Hasselbaink picked up an Abeid pass, turned and curled shot from the edge of the box past Forster and into the far corner of the net.