St Mirren 1-5 Celtic
Celtic hit five goals in 25 second-half minutes to turn round a half-time deficit against ten-man St Mirren.
Mark O’Hara gave the home side a sixth-minute lead from the spot but Saints’ hopes of repeating their September victory over the champions were undone by defender Charles Dunne’s 38th-minute red card.
Goals from Jota and Alistair Johnston turned the game on its head and substitutes Liel Abada, Matt O’Riley and Oh Hyeon-gyu all scored as Celtic triumphed 5-1 and restored their nine-point lead over Rangers at the top of the cinch Premiership.
Referee David Dickinson ruled before kick-off that St Mirren had to wear their black away strip and Celtic their light grey third kit to avoid a clash of colours.
Ange Postecoglou started with the same team that lined up for last Sunday’s Viaplay Cup final victory over Rangers but they were brought back down to earth following a delayed VAR review after Greg Taylor handled as Alex Greive tried to knock the ball past him.
The ball hit the left-back’s hand from close range but his arm was away from his body and ref David Dickinson pointed to the spot after watching the incident on his monitor. O’Hara stroked the ball into the corner of the net just out of Joe Hart’s reach.
Celtic tried to hit back and midfielder Reo Hatate’s first-time effort from 18 yards grazed the crossbar after a poor clearance and the Japanese midfielder twice set up Jota.
Trevor Carson pushed over the Portuguese winger’s first effort and Dunne diverted the second past the post.
The Saints defender was less effective with an attempted passback which sent Kyogo Furuhashi clear and he instantly reacted to pull the striker down.
Dickinson issued a red card and pointed to the spot but the second punishment was downgraded to a free-kick by VAR official Andrew Dallas without Dickinson being asked to watch the tight call on screen.
Marcus Fraser blocked Callum McGregor’s resulting shot and denied Hatate with a similar intervention before the break.
St Mirren manager Stephen Robinson brought on defender Richard Taylor for striker Greive in the wake of the red card to move to a 5-3-1 formation while Abada replaced Daizen Maeda at half-time.
The Israel winger was involved in the 56th-minute equaliser, releasing Aaron Mooy to deliver a low cross which was ultimately scrambled over the line by a grounded Jota.
Mooy also set up Celtic’s second goal five minutes later when Johnston got above O’Hara to head home the Australian’s free-kick at the far post.
Robinson sent on Tony Watt and moved to a back four but his side were almost immediately caught out by a counter-attack which finished with Furuhashi hitting the post and Taylor clearing off the line from Abada.
The substitute soon had his goal, thrusting into space in the box before drilling into the far corner in the 70th minute.
Abada was again involved as Celtic moved further ahead two minutes later, setting up O’Riley to sweep home first time.
Oh drilled home a 81st-minute penalty after Dickinson was called to his monitor to study Alex Gogic’s challenge on the South Korean striker to seal Celtic’s rout.
Super sub Abada had the impact boss demanded
Ange Postecoglou hailed the contribution of Liel Abada after the half-time substitute inspired Celtic’s emphatic comeback against ten-man St Mirren.
The 21-year-old Israel attacker scored once and set up another two goals after replacing Daizen Maeda as the Hoops ran out 5-1 winners, having trailed to Mark O’Hara’s early penalty.
That took his tally for the season to 12 goals and seven assists and boss Postecoglou said: ‘He was really good. It’s important – and it’s a weekly thing – that the guys who come on make an impact.
‘I just thought the way the game was going it was a good game for him to come on into. I knew he would get a bit of space out wide to run at them.
‘He’s a handful when he does that and he’s always a goal threat. It doesn’t matter what opposition he is up against.
‘He’s played a lot of football over the last 18 months for us and he’s scored a lot of goals and supplied a lot of assists. He’s still got a way to improve but when he is asked to contribute, he makes a contribution.
‘I know he’s not had a lot of starts but he’s still played a lot of football.
‘All our players, particularly the younger ones who want to go on to a stronger league, do you think they are going to go to a club where they are guaranteed game time?
‘No, so it’s no different here. We are a big club. Nothing is guaranteed. You’ve got to earn everything and these boys do that.’
The game changed after 38 minutes when Charles Dunne saw red for hauling down Kyogo Furuhashi after playing a short backpass.
Buddies boss Stephen Robinson said: ‘Playing with 11 men against Celtic is a tough task. If you play with ten, it becomes very, very hard.’
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