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Neil Lennon's side failed to win again as they allowed the Saints to come back from behind to earn a victory, and they will have to pick themselves up with Benfica on the horizon

DIGEST
By Martin Macdonald

HOOPS SLUMP TO DEFEAT AGAINST SAINTS

Celtic made it successive Scottish Premier League games without a win on Saturday afternoon as they were disappointingly defeated 2-1 by a plucky St Johnstone side at McDiarmid Park.

Things started perfectly for the Hoops, as they took the lead after just four minutes when Gary Hooper picked out Kris Commons to the left of the St Johnstone box, and the 29-year-old took one touch before lashing a strike into the bottom right corner.

Neil Lennon’s men looked to be controlling the game, but the hosts got back on level terms in the 18th minute when Gregory Tade spun cleverly inside the box before firing a shot into the bottom left corner past Fraser Forster.

Controversy would strike just before the half-hour mark when Commons had the goal at his mercy one-on-one with St Johnstone goalkeeper Alan Mannus, only to be brought down from behind after a desperate lunge from Steven Anderson. It looked to be a formality that the referee would whistle for a spot kick, but Euan Norris saw no infraction and waved play on.

Despite Celtic’s relentless pressing for the winning goal as the second half progressed, it was Steve Lomas’ men who found the winner 10 minutes from time when Rowan Vine stepped inside from the left and curled an excellent strike into the top right corner, giving Forster no chance.

This result leaves the Bhoys fifth place in the SPL with eight points taken from five matches. St Johnstone have now claimed their first win of the new campaign and have climbed up to 10th in the table ahead of Inverness and Dundee.

LENNON URGES PLAYERS TO FOCUS

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has pleaded for his players to show more focus in their domestic duties following the Hoops' 2-1 defeat by St Johnstone at the weekend.

A goal each from Gregory Tade and Rowan Vine saw the Hoops slump to another Scottish Premier League match without a win on Saturday, and Lennon has urged his players to regain their discipline with the vital Champions League group match against Benfica on the horizon.

Speaking to the media after the match, he said: "I think some players are not concentrating on what they should be doing and thinking about the Champions League. Some players never turned up. They need to buck up their ideas."

The Northern Irish coach was particularly critical of the attitude shown by his players in the defeat by St.Johnstone, and accused them of taking their foot off the gas after taking an early lead.

He said: "What I detected was a listlessness, we looked leggy at times and there was no real urgency about our play. We got off to a great start and never capitalised on it. We probably thought after we scored that it was going to be easy and games are never easy.

"Today's performance was needless and unacceptable and I'm very, very disappointed with them for the first time in a long time."

NEXT MATCH: BACK IN THE BIG TIME

Celtic’s next match sees the Scottish Premier League Champions take on Portuguese giants Benfica as they play their first Champions League group stage match in four years at Celtic Park on Wednesday.

The Hoops have defeated HJK Helsinki and Helsingborgs on their way to the Champions League proper, and will have their work cut out for them in Group G, with Benfica, Spartak Moscow and Barcelona certain to provide very difficult opposition.

The Portuguese side sold star midfielders Javi Garcia and Axel Witsel  to Manchester City and Zenit St Petersburg respectively during the transfer window, but still boast an array of attacking talent with the likes of Pablo Aimar, Nicolas Gaitan and Oscar Cardozo sure to pose a particular threat.

In the other match in Group G on Wednesday, Barcelona face Spartak Moscow at Camp Nou.

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