St.Mirren had an SPL point ripped from their grasp as Gary Hooper scored in the second minute of injury time to hand Neil Lennon three points, taking Celtic back to one point behind rivals and league leaders Rangers.
Chances were at a premium in a pretty poor first half, but the game breathed new life in the second half as both sides went for the kill. Buddies striker Michael Higdon hit the crossbar, while Celtic’s Shaun Maloney missed a sitter with the goal beckoning. It looked as though St. Mirren would hold out for a point, but Gary Hooper was at the right place at the right time to score a late winner, at the second time of asking, after some great play from Paddy McCourt.
After the midweek defeat to Hearts at Tynecastle, Celtic looked upon this game of settling old scores over last season’s 4-0 defeat, which cost Tony Mowbray his job, but also to better their performances away from home.
After just six minutes, Celtic’s Cha Du-Ri, playing in a midfield role, failed to connect with a superb cross from Emilio Izaguirre from the left flank.
The first half saw few chances, with the home side content to dig in to frustrate Celtic and to hit the Parkhead side on the counter attack.
Celtic could have taken the lead if Anthony Stokes had done better with his header. Stokes rose unchallenged in the box to meet a cross from Maloney only to head it over the bar just over the half hour mark. Minutes later Buddies captain John Potter brought down Maloney as the midfielder ran through on goal but, with McAusland in the vicinity, referee Iain Brines – sporting a very snazzy German-pornesque moustache – pulled out a yellow card rather than a red which many of the away support were calling for.
Into the second half and it was St.Mirren who threatened first, as striker Michael Higdon saw his 30 yard effort hit the crossbar with Celtic keeper Fraser Forster just a bystander.
That effort sting Celtic and they responded by replacing Stokes who had done little in the game, and brought on Daryl Murphy.
Celtic brought on Niall McGinn for Cha Du-Ri, and moments later captain Shaun Maloney missed an amazing sitter when McGinn sent in a superb cross, but Maloney fired his shot wide. And St.Mirren then broke up the pitch, as Gareth Wardlaw forced Forster into a good save, sending the ball out for a corner.
Murphy then wasted a glorious chance to pull the ball back across goal, after good work from the influential McGinn, but instead he headed into the side netting.
Celtic started to find some impetus as the minutes ticked away, searching for that elusive goal. Niall McGinn, had a shot saved by Buddies keeper Samson, and Ki then sent a ball through to McGinn again but once more his finish was poor and fired at straight at the St.Mirren keeper.
The game hit the 90 minute mark and it looked as though St.Mirren were just three minutes away from securing a vital point, however Celtic snatched victory from the jaws of defeat when good play from McCourt down the left-wing found Hooper in the box, and the former Scunthorpe man prodded home at the second attempt to send the Celtic fans into ecstasy. With some getting a wee bit too carried away as they jumped the hoardings and mobbed Hooper.
The striker was booked for his celebrations with the fans, despite the player staying on the pitch and the fans doing the encroachment. It wasn’t a great advertisement for the Scottish game, but the result means that Celtic close the gap on their rivals Rangers to just one point once more.
Scottish Premier League
Sunday, November 14, 2010
St Mirren Park
St. Mirren 0-1 Celtic (Hooper 90+2)
ST MIRREN: (5-3-2) Samson; Van Zanten, Potter, McAusland, Travner; McLean, Cregg, McGregor, Lynch (Thomson 70); Wardlaw (Barron 79), Higdon.
Subs not used: Mathers, McCluskey, Mooy, Lamont, McKernon.
CELTIC: (4-4-2) Forster; Wilson, Rogne, Majstorovic, Izaguirre; Cha McGinn 61), Juarez (McCourt 75), Ki, Maloney, Stokes (Murphy 56), Hooper.
Subs not used: Zaluska, Hooiveld, Towell, Crosas.
Match Photos[nggallery id=7]
© Photos by Vagelis Georgariou