St Mirren 0-2 Celtic: Neil’s Hooperman with the KO blow
By ROSS BRADY
AN early brace from Gary Hooper gave Celtic a 2-0 victory at New St Mirren Park.
Celtic scored two goals early on and settled the nerves in what could have been a tricky fixture for the Parkhead side after a tough week.
A sloppy start from St Mirren ultimately punished the Paisley side in what was a great performance.
Anthony Stokes and Gary Hooper, who missed the St Johnstone game with injury, was the preferred strike force for Neil Lennon at New St Mirren Park and both started well. Hooper played Stokes through in the first couple of minutes before Stokes dragged his shot wide.
The partnership between Stokes and Hooper is an exciting one to watch as both intertwine so well. It was Stokes turn to play in his strike partner as Gary Hooper played a neat one-two with the Irishman. Hooper played the ball to Stokes and intelligently spun his marker before Stokes found the pass. Hooper with loads of time and space slotted Celtic into an early lead.
Neil Lennon’s men got off to the best possible start as they looked to bounce back from Thursdays Europa League tie in Switzerland where Celtic lost 3-1 to FC Sion.
Former Celt Paul McGowan, whose Celtic career ironically pretty much ended at New St Mirren Park when Celtic were defeated 4-0, made a sloppy pass which let his former side in on goal once again. His inadvertent pass fell to Gary Hooper who doesn’t pass up chances like that and the Englishman helped himself to a second goal.
Celtic couldn’t have dreamt of a better start after what looked to be a tricky tie for Celtic. St Mirren have been a breath of fresh air to the SPL this season with their brand of attacking football and have already recorded wins over Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Hibernian.
The Buddies reacted well to going two behind though and it was a credit to Danny Lennon as a lot of others teams could have just folded after that start.
Paul McGowan tried to make amends for his earlier error when Nigel Hasselbaink played in the young Scot. McGowan looked to knock the ball past Forster in the Celtic goal but the man on loan from Newcastle made a fantastic one handed save to turn the ball wide.
Celtic started the second half brightly when Anthony Stokes drove at the Buddies defence as they continued to back off the Irishman before making Craig Samson pull off a decent save.
Stokes was looking the most likely to score next at the start of the second half when he was played in by Ki Sung-Yueng. Stokes tried to use step overs and trickery to beat the St Mirren defence and looked to beat Samson at his front post but the St Mirren stopper pushed it away.
Nigel Hasselbaink looked a threatening proposition for the Celtic defence as he gave Daniel Majstorovic and Kelvin Wilson a torrid time with his pace. The nephew of former Chelsea player Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink looks a great acquisition from Hamilton Accies.
St Mirren started to play that kind of football that has won them so many plaudits over the season so far and started to dominate the proceedings.
They dominated most of the play but their best opportunity came through a signing of Neil Lennon not Danny when Kelvin Wilson almost headed in his own net. The man signed from Nottingham Forest looked to have beat Forster when his looping header found the goalkeeper off his line but it crept just wide.
For all of St Mirren’s good football it was Celtic who was fashioning the best chances in the match.
A well worked corner from Ki-Sung Yueng found James Forrest, who started in place of Joe Ledley, faked a shot which threw some of the Saints defenders but didn’t fool Craig Samson in the St Mirren goal. The goalkeeper who has the task of replacing Paul Gallacher this season made an excellent save to deny the young Scot his second of the season.
Gary Hooper turned creator when he found Ki in the Buddies box but Ki’s effort was poor in truth and was struck straight at the goalkeeper.
A great passing move from the visitors this time opened up the Buddies defence once again when a nice interchanging move from James Forrest and Charlie Mulgrew set Forrest one on one with Samson but the goalkeeper got the better of Forrest once again. Craig Samson had a very good game in the St Mirren goal.
A result over performance for Celtic which after the week Neil Lennon has had I am sure that he will be more than happy to take.
Man of the match: Nigel Hasselbaink
Hasselbaink was suspended for the last two fixtures after his red card against Dundee United and the young Dutchman came in and played very well. His pace and his direct running caused problems for the Celtic defence. He has probably been the signing of the SPL season so far.
St Mirren: Samson, Tesselaar, McAusland, Van Zanten, Mair, Thomson, Goodwin, McGowan, Teale, Thompson and Hasselbaink.
Substitutes: Smith, McKee, McLean, McShane, Kennedy, Carey and Haddad.
Celtic: Forster, Cha Du-Ri, Majstorovic, K.Wilson, Mulgrew, Forrest, Brown, Kayal, Ki-Sung Yueng, Stokes and Hooper.
Substitues: Zaluska, Matthews, Samaras, Maloney, Commons, Ledley and Wanyama.
Referee: Willie Collum