Marc-Antoine Fortune helped himself to a double as Celtic beat St Johnstone 5-2 in the opening home game of the league campaign. Shaun Maloney also struck twice while Scott McDonald netted Celtic's fifth of the afternoon.
Tony Mowbray’s men picked up where they left off following their win over Aberdeen at Pittodrie last weekend, playing some fast-flowing and entertaining football.
There were occasional frustrating moments, not least the manner in which St Johnstone's two goals were conceded, but whenever they had to, the players upped their game and remained in complete control throughout the 90 minutes.
The match was preceded by a minute’s applause for two former Celts who recently passed away, John Donnelly and Brian McLaughlin, the former a member of the legendary 7-1 side and the latter a gifted midfielder who played for the Hoops in the 1970s.
St Johnstone had proved to be the best football team in the First Division last season, winning the title and promotion in an attacking style. However, this match saw a more pragmatic approach, with Collin Samuel operating as lone striker in front of a five-man midfield which was bolstered by a couple of defenders.
But still the Saints posed a threat in attack and were it not for the pace and determination of the back-tracking Scott Brown, Filipe Morais would have been straight through on goal and on the end of a great pass from Jody Morris.
It took until the 18th minute for Celtic to respond properly, with Aiden McGeady escaping his man-markers and firing a shot at goal that went inches over. This was followed by a dangerous cross from the left that was collected by the Saints keeper and a clever cut-back from Fortune, which Scott McDonald sent wide.
Then in the 21st minute, Fortune fired Celtic into the lead with the first goal of his Celtic career. It was a wonderful piece of skill on the left from Maloney which set up the striker, with the little winger beating two defenders before sliding a pass into the path of Fortune and the striker showed coolness and composure to slot the ball into the net.
Two minutes later Fortune then saw his header cleared off the line by Stuart McCaffrey, while, seconds after that, Maloney almost picked out the big forward again with a clever chip to the back post.
The goal appeared to have given Celtic fresh impetus and McDonald was next to threaten with two near attempts, before McGeady saw another shot cleared off the line by McCaffrey.
The Celtic fans were being treated to some superb football and the Hoops' second goal came from an impressive sweeping move which started on the left and finished with Andy Hinkel getting to the byline on the right and lifting in a perfect cross which was headed home by the unmarked Maloney.
Celtic were now in complete control and it seemed a matter of time before they added to their goals tly. However, a mistake on 36 minutes from Gary Caldwell allowed Samuel to race through and fire a shot beyond Artur Boruc from the edge of the box to reduce the deficit.
The challenge for Tony Mowbray's side after the interval was to reassert their authority and they nearly did so within seconds of the restart, with McGeady running onto a clever pass by Fortune and testing the keeper. McDonald then headed over a Fox cross from the resulting corner.
Then, in the 53rd minute, the outstanding Maloney re-established Celtic’s lead with a superb solo effort, driving into the bottom corner from the edge of the box after cutting in from the left.
The strike inspired a fresh assault from the Celtic players and just 60 seconds later, McGeady was dancing towards goal, taking his time before picking out the run of Fortune, who again produced the perfect finish low into the corner.
Now 4-1 up, Celtic continued to work hard and create chances, with Fortune particularly impressive and coming close with another attempt before Danny Fox sent a free kick inches past the post.
With 20 minutes remaining Fortune went off to a standing ovation from a home support who took obvious delight in seeing their striker score his first Celtic goals in such emphatic fashion.
But there was still some drama left in this match and with around 15 minutes remaining, Fox curled in a perfect cross from a quick Maloney croner which McDonald headed home at the back post from close range.
Then, with Celtic still pushing forward, St Johnstone grabbed another goal in bizarre fashion, with Morris squirming through the defence and stabbing at the ball, which came back off the post and trundled over the line.
As the minutes ticked away, Celtic were not content to sit in and let the game play out but continued to attack, although St Johnstone managed to avoid onceding any more goals.
The game finished 5-2 and although the players have a tough task this week as they try to overturn a 2-0 defeat to Arsenal in London - the Gunners beat Portsmouth 4-1 at the Emirates this afternoon - Celtic's performance highlights a growing confidence among the players.
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