Hooper rescues Hoops
A last-gasp goal from Gary Hooper clinched a dramatic 1-0 win for Celtic at St. Mirren today. Neil Lennon's team moved to within one point of league leaders Rangers after Hooper's perfectly-timed winner glossed over a scrappy display from the Hoops.
Lennon made several changes after the midweek defeat at Hearts, with Efrain Juarez deputising for the suspended Joe Ledley, Thomas Rogne replacing Jos Hooiveld and Cha Du-Ri in for Georgios Samaras. Despite a positive start, Lennon's side couldn't turn their plentiful possession into chances. The closest they came in the first period was an Anthony Stokes header over the bar from a Shaun Maloney corner.
Gradually Celtic lost their momentum. Five minutes from the break, Stokes had a tame long-range effort saved comfortably saved by Craig Samson, before Ki Sung-Yueng fired wide from a similar distance. Saints almost snatched the lead soon after half-time when Michael Higdon unleashed a dipping volley from long-range that beat Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster only to rebound off the bar.
Hooper should have given Lennon's team the lead but his close-range header was saved by Samson, then Maloney wasted an equally good chance as he scuffed wide from no more than six yards. At the other end, Forster brilliantly tipped a powerful drive from Gareth Wardlaw over the bar. Murphy headed in to the side netting at the back post from a Niall McGinn cross from the right and McGinn forced a decent save from Samson with a powerful drive from the edge of the box.
Paddy McCourt replaced Juarez with 15 minutes remaining but it was McGinn who had a drive from close-range saved by Samson following a defence-splitting pass from Ki Sung-Yueng. Higdon then sent another long-distance drive whistling past Forster's right-hand post. The final minutes were tense as the Parkhead men drove forward and in the second minute of added time Hooper grabbed a dramatic winner from three yards out to spark wild scenes of celebration.