By Martin Macdonald
|HOOPS MAKE IT THREE ON THE BOUNCE
Celtic moved three points clear at the top of the Scottish Premier League with a comfortable 2-0 victory over St Mirren at Celtic Park on Saturday.
The hosts were coming off a narrow victory over Arbroath last week, and they started this match with plenty of gusto. St Mirren hung on in the opening minutes despite most of the play taking place in and around their penalty area.
The Hoops had a decent claim for a penalty 15 minutes after Gary Hooper went down under the challenge of Jim Goodwin inside the area, but referee waved the play on.
However, it was only one minute later that SPL champions managed to edge ahead. A corner was whipped in from the right-hand side and Victor Wanyama rose high to head towards goal, and although his initial attempt was blocked, he reacted quickest to smash home from close range.
Neil Lennon's men enjoyed total dominance for the first period, and almost took advantage again half an hour in. Georgios Samaras controlled brilliantly on his chest before lashing a strike towards goal from the edge of the box, but his attempt flew past the post.
The same pattern continued after the break, with Celtic dominating possession. The scoreline came close to being doubled shortly after the restart when Scott Brown bravely got on the end of a Hooper knockdown at the back post, but St Mirren goalkeeper Craig Samson came out to make the block. The Hoops captain had to receive treatment after the collision, but returned to the action a few minutes later.
Mikael Lustig was unlucky not to get himself on the scoresheet when he commandingly headered towards goal at the back post, only to see his attempt crack the woodwork.
The hosts would not have to wait long to extend their lead, however. Seven minutes from time Charlie Mulgrew drove a cross into the box for Hooper, who clinically finished from a few yards out.
The Bhoys held on for the remaining minutes to claim a relatively comfortable win and three vital SPL points.
|LENNON SATISFIED WITH FORM
Celtic manager Neil Lennon was understandably satisfied with the performance and form of his side after the Hoops made it three Scottish Premier League wins in a row with their victory over St Mirren at the weekend.
Celtic have been in erratic form at home in the league this season, but the Northern Irish boss spoke of his delight that his outfit were finally putting together a run for form domestically.
Speaking after the match, he said: "There was a good attitude about the way we set about our play today. There was a good tempo and aggressiveness about us and we managed to maintain that for the majority of the game.
"We have a four-point cushion with a game in hand. I don't know if we will win that game but four points with a game in hand is decent and we are starting to get a bit of daylight which is obviously what we want."
Lennon also singled out Gary Hooper and Georgios Samaras for praise after the match, and alluded to how important the duo have been to extend Celtic's fortunes.
He said: "He [Hooper] is looking a lot sharper and trimmer and has got the bit between his teeth so I was delighted he got his goal.
"He [Samaras] is a very instinctive player and you have to think your way through it, and I was pleased with his contribution."
|EUROPE'S ELITE AWAITS
Celtic's fantastic European adventure this campaign comes to its next chapter this week as the Hoops discover who their opponents will be in the knockout stage of the Champions League.
The Scottish Premier League champions secured the runners-up place in Group G with 10 points taken from six matches, with a momentous victory over Barcelona at Parkhead being the highlight.
The draw for the round of 16 takes place on Thursday December 20 in Nyon, and Celtic face the prospect of being selected for a match against an array of European giants.
Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Dortmund, Schalke, Juventus, Malaga and Paris Saint German all await the Celts in what is sure to be a couple of glamour ties in the Champions League.
|NEXT MATCH: CELTS WELCOME DIVISION ONE CHAMPIONS
Celtic's next match sees the Scottish Premier League champions take on Ross County at Celtic Park on Saturday.
The Hoops are currently on a three-match winning streak in the league and will hope to continue their good form as they welcome the Staggies to Glasgow.
The last match between the sides ended in a 1-1 draw.
County had took the lead through Richard Brittain shortly after half time, but they were denied a famous win when Kris Commons popped up in the dying seconds to salvage a point for Neil Lennon's men.