Celtic vs. St Johnstone – Football Match Report – February 18, 2018
A much-changed Celtic side failed to hit their European heights as St Johnstone held them to a goalless Scottish Premiership draw at Parkhead.
Manager Brendan Rodgers made seven changes to the team that started the 1-0 win over Zenit St. Petersburg on Thursday night and they produced a disjointed performance in the first half.
The champions initially stepped up the pace after the break, but there was no onslaught and St Johnstone held out for a welcome point.
Celtic finished the afternoon nine points ahead of Rangers and Aberdeen as they turn their attention to the second leg of their Europa League round-of-32 tie in Russia on Thursday night.
Midfielder Tom Rogic returned for the first time since Dec. 5 following his recovery from a knee injury, with Cristian Gamboa, Jack Hendry, Calvin Miller, Charly Musonda, Odsonne Edouard and Scott Sinclair also back in.
In the absence of suspended skipper Scott Brown, Callum McGregor, who scored the winner against Zenit, was handed the armband.
Attacker George Williams, on loan from Fulham, was handed his debut for St Johnstone, with midfielder Blair Alston and striker Steven MacLean returning.
After the excitement of Thursday, Parkhead was much more subdued.
A free kick from winger Charly Musonda, on loan from Chelsea, was met by defender Kristoffer Ajer in the fifth minute, but his header from point-blank range was parried by goalkeeper Alan Mannus and the defence scrambled the ball to safety.
Celtic keeper Dorus de Vries produced a moment of needless anxiety in the 14th minute when he miskicked straight to MacLean, but the striker could not take advantage as ball spun down from the air.
St Johnstone came close just before the half-hour mark when David Weatherspoon’s header from a Blair Alston cross flew just over the bar with De Vries beaten, before full-back Richard Foster fired a drive from 25 yards over moments later.
Celtic had a good chance two minutes after the restart when Sinclair robbed midfielder Chris Millar in the centre circle and raced forward before setting up Edouard.
However, the French striker hesitated inside the box and defender Jason Kerr blocked his shot, which spun into the hands of a grateful Mannus.
Moments later, in a St Johnstone break, Foster drove the ball across Celtic’s six-yard box and past the far post before Mannus saved a long-range effort from Musonda at the expense of a corner which came to nothing.
The home supporters grew increasingly irritated and Rodgers introduced winger James Forrest for Rogic before Moussa Dembele entered for Edouard.
In between the two substitutions, Mannus saved a Musonda free kick and then Sinclair’s follow-up drive, but still Celtic struggled to find any rhythm.
In the final, nervy stages Mannus saved down at his right from a Sinclair drive and Dembele headed wide before the final whistle.