McGinn brace keeps pressure on Rangers
Celtic kept the pressure on Scottish Premier League leaders Rangers as Niall McGinn's double inspired a 3-0 win over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park today. McGinn put Neil Lennon's team ahead in the second minute and added his second goal in the final moments after Emilio Izaguirre had increased the visitors' lead.
St Johnstone defender Danny Grainger, booked for dissent following the opening goal, was sent off after earning a second yellow card for a foul on Anthony Stokes before Celtic's third goal.
The Hoops are now back level on points with Rangers, although their Glasgow rivals, who beat Celtic 3-1 last weekend, can move clear at the top with a win over Inverness later today.
There was some disruption just before kick-off when Celtic captain Shaun Maloney, originally on the team sheet after recovering from an eye injury, had to withdraw due to illness.
But Celtic went in front with little over a minute gone after Liam Craig had fouled Georgios Samaras. Ki Sung-Yueng cut the the free-kick back to Anthony Stokes, whose drive was parried by Saints keeper Graeme Smith to the feet of McGinn and he smashed in the rebound from close range.
The McDiarmid Park pitch had passed a morning inspection following heavy rain but Celtic adapted well and in the eighth minute Ki rattled a drive against the post after taking a clever pass from Stokes, with Cha Du-Ri driving the rebound from distance high over the bar.
St Johnstone had rallied from the loss of three early goals against Celtic in their Scottish League Cup defeat in mid-week but there was nothing to encourage the home support.
In the 41st minute the home side were in further trouble when Izaguirre intercepted a slack back-pass by Steven Milne at the edge of the box and burst past Dave Mackay before deftly slipping the ball under Smith.
The match looked beyond St Johnstone and in the 49th minute only a fine save by Smith from Izaguirre, after good work by Stokes at the edge of the box in brushing off Mackay, prevented a third. Four minutes from time Grainger walked after receiving his second and then McGinn grabbed his second with a mis-kicked shot from Cha's cut-back.