Celtic 5 St Johnstone 0: Lennon gets an explosive response as Bhoys rise to the bait
00:10 GMT, 31 October 2012
Neil Lennon lit the fuse on Sunday. Here, he was able to step back and watch the fireworks at Celtic Park.
The Parkhead boss had left his players in no doubt about his fury after Saturday’s dismal 2-0 home defeat from Kilmarnock, delivering a blistering address when he gathered them together 24 hours later.
The message was clear. If there was any more sloppiness or complacency when dealing with domestic business then the perpetrators could prepare for a stint in the stand.
Kris is more like it: Commons slams home the second-half penalty which completed his hat-trick
Celtic: Forster, Lustig, Ambrose (McCourt 71), Wilson, Izaguirre, Commons, Brown (Matthews 64), Wanyama, Ledley, Hooper (Mulgrew 46),
Watt. Subs not used: Zaluska, Kayal.
Booked: Watt, Ambrose, Lustig.
Goals: Commons 28, 32, Hooper 38, Commons 57 (pen), Mulgrew 61.
St Johnstone: Mannus, Miller, Anderson, McCracken, MacKay, Millar, Murray Davidson (Robertson 64), Moon, Craig, Vine (MacLean 46), Tade (Hasselbaink 74). Subs not used: Tuffey, Scobbie.
Booked: MacKay, Anderson, Miller, Hasselbaink.
Ref: Bobby Madden.
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It’s safe to say the warning was
heeded. A strong Celtic line-up — showing five changes from the weekend —
simply decimated St Johnstone to march into the semi-finals of the
League Cup. This was decisiveness in action.
Kris Commons led the way with a
clinical display of attacking prowess. The winger unquestionably scored
twice and laid claim to a hat-trick after his strike was deflected in by
Liam Craig for the opener. Gary Hooper and Charlie Mulgrew also placed
their names on a scoresheet which could have witnessed even more
The Perth side had defeated Celtic
2-1 at McDiarmid Park six weeks ago and were also the last Scottish team
to win at Parkhead prior to last weekend. Yet any hope was swiftly shot
Celtic entered the match with
Lennon’s words ringing in the ears and with the additional motivation of
taking a step closer to the only domestic trophy missing under their
manager’s command. Two successive defeats in the final have left a
bitter taste they are determined to wash away this term.
Dejection: St Johnstone keeper Alan Mannus reflects on a hard night
The fans, however, remain less
stirred by this competition. The night before Hallowe’en, there was a
vaguely ghostly atmosphere about Parkhead, with the top tier closed and a
crowd of just 14,399 spread around the other seats.
Yet St Johnstone were unable to
capitalise on the lack of intimidation from the stands. Boss Steve Lomas
celebrates his first anniversary in charge this weekend and the
previous 12 months can rarely have delivered such a brutal defeat.
For all that Celtic were excellent in
much of their attacking play, Lomas would have cringed at some of the
efforts to keep them at bay.
It was no surprise to see Lennon make
sweeping alterations to his starting line-up after being left dismayed
by the plunge in performance levels at the weekend.
Out went Adam Matthews, James
Forrest, Beram Kayal, Mulgrew and Miku. In came Mikael Lustig, Scott
Brown, Victor Wanyama, Tony Watt and Hooper. There could be no question
about how seriously the Celtic manager was taking the tie.
Goal machine: Gary Hooper was on the scoresheet once again
Lennon was seeking a greater urgency
than witnessed in their feeble efforts against Killie and certain
individuals immediately answered the call.
Captain Brown always injects an
additional drive to the side and, stationed wide right in midfield, he
looked determined to raise the tempo whenever possible.
One nimble hurdle of Dave MacKay’s
sliding challenge took him into the penalty area, where his cutback was
forced behind by a desperate lunge from Saints centre-half David
Commons then smacked in a low effort
that squirted off goalkeeper Alan Mannus, before Lustig cut a neat pass
to Hooper for the striker to send a snapshot narrowly wide.
Celtic were clearly the dominant
side, yet there was a flicker of concern when Efe Ambrose reprised some
of the sloppiness that pockmarked his performance on Saturday.
The Nigerian over-ran the ball to concede possession to Kevin Moon, who promptly released Liam Craig on the left flank.
With Lennon glaring from the touchline, Ambrose was mightily relieved when a dangerous delivery was eventually cleared.
Crisp strike: Charlie Mulgrew unleashes Celtic's fifth
In truth, however, that was only the
briefest of deviations in a one-way first half. It seemed only a matter
of time before Celtic scored, but Commons took it upon himself to speed
up the process.
The Scotland winger seemed locked in a
one-man mission to torment Mannus as he peppered his goalmouth from
distance before enjoying a slice of good fortune when finally forcing
the opener after 28 minutes. He teased Dave Mackay on the fringe of the
area to engineer enough space to fizz in a right-footed cross-shot that
was diverted into the net by the outstretched foot of Craig.
It took only four minutes for
Commons to double the advantage. Brown fed Lustig down the left and his
clever low cross was gathered by Hooper around 20 yards from goal. He
slipped a through ball for Commons and an angled finish gave Mannus no
St Johnstone appealed in vain for an offside flag, with captain Mackay venting his anger at assistant referee Alan Mulvanney.
Steven Anderson then cleared a Lustig
header off the line as Celtic continued to rampage forward at will.
That, however, only served to delay a third goal until the 39th minute.
Again, the outstanding Commons was heavily involved as he sprinted free
on the left to deliver a pinpoint centre that was swept into the net by
the grateful Hooper. St Johnstone looked punch-drunk.
Improved performance: Neil Lennon demanded more from his players – and he got it
The interval would have come as a
blessed relief to Lomas and his players, but both sides were changed
when they reappeared for the second period.
Saints withdrew Rowan Vine to
introduce Steven MacLean, while Mulgrew replaced Hooper. Mulgrew took up
a role wide on the left, allowing Commons to move closer to central
The switches did nothing to alter the
flow of proceedings. One fine run by Gregory Tade caused a degree of
panic in the home defence, but that was nothing compared to the disarray
in the Saints backline.
They fell further behind after 56
minutes when Anderson was penalised for tugging back Watt as he turned
to control a Mulgrew cross. Commons drilled in the spot-kick with
minimum of fuss to spark debate about whether or not he had actually
claimed a treble.
Five minutes later, it was 5-0. Watt
drifted wide right to angle in a cross that was brushed away by the
diving Mannus but gathered by Mulgrew at the far post.
For what seemed like an eternity, he
twisted this way and that against Gary Miller before eventually
whipping a left-foot shot into the net. Mulgrew’s composure was
admirable but the defending he faced was pitiful.
Fraser Forster had been a bystander
for so much of the evening but produced late saves from substitutes
David Robertson and Nigel Hasselbaink to set the seal on a satisfying
recovery mission for Celtic.