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Celtic’s title defence starts with win over 10-man Saints Dundee Utd make it two wins out of two

 GLASGOW, Aug 14, (AFP): Celtic’s defence of their Scottish Premiership title got off to a winning start with a 3-0 victory over ten-men St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park. The corresponding fixture at the end of last season had ended in a 3-3 draw but following a low-key goalless first half a similar scoreline didn’t look likely. Celtic made the breakthrough 10 minutes after the break when a defensive lapse from Steven Anderson allowed Kris Commons to send Anthony Stokes clear and the Irish striker rounded Alan Mannus to fire Celtic in front. St Johnstone’s Dave Mackay had a penalty appeal turned down before the defender was shown a red card for conceding one after he clipped the legs of substitute Derk Boerrigter as he bore down on goal. Nir Biton stepped up to convert the 76th minute spot-kick for his first goal for the club.


Callum McGregor completed the scoring in the 84th minute following a goalkeeping howler as Mannus somehow let his low shot squirm through his fingers and over the line as new manager Ronny Deila’s first competitive league match in charge ended in victory.
The win leaves Celtic in fourth having played a game less than leaders Dundee United who visit Celtic Park on Saturday.
Deila — who was a surprise appointment to replace Neil Lennon as manager — felt the win relieved some pressure on him following poor European results.
“It was a first game and there were some nerves but it fantastic to win an away game in front of so many Celtic fans to make a good impression,” said the 38-year-old Norwegian.
“The end of the first half was really bad but in the second half I think we upped our intensity and pressure and caused them more problems.”
St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright was unhappy with the referee’s performance.
“I’m happy with the performance, I’m happy with my players and I thought we played extremely well,” Wright said.
“At the time when we gave away the goal I thought we were well on top. We should have got a penalty to get back in it and then they got a penalty which was quite clearly not one.”
St Johnstone may have sold last year’s top scorer Stevie May to Sheffield Wednesday but chairman Steve Brown was still afforded a cheer as he paraded the Scottish Cup before kick-off.
May’s absence left Steven MacLean to lead the line for Saints while Craig Gordon, in his first Scottish top flight match since May 2007, took over in goal for Celtic following Fraser Forster’s transfer to Southampton.
A lack of concentration from Anderson allowed Celtic to take the lead in the 55th minute.
The St Johnstone defender dwelled too long on the ball allowing Commons to win possession with a sliding challenge.
Stokes picked up the ball and rounded keeper Mannus before sending a shot in off the post from a tight angle.
St Johnstone were appealing for a penalty soon after when Mackay appeared to be felled in the box following a clumsy challenge from Virgil van Dijk but referee John Beaton waved away their protests.
Minutes later Mackay’s match was over when he was shown a straight red as sub Boerrigter collapsed in the box following a collision with the Saints player with Biton converting the resultant penalty.
The Israeli then turned provider as he picked out McGregor whose low shot went through the legs of a defender before somehow squirming through the fingers of Mannus and over the line.
Dundee United, though, should provide stiffer opposition as they made it two wins out of two following a 1-0 victory over Motherwell and another potential title rival Aberdeen got their campaign on track, after United defeated them 3-0 on the opening day, as they beat Kilmarnock 2-0.

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