Callum McGregor Alamy Stock Photo

Celtic maintain three-point lead as Scotland's top two do enough for crucial wins

Celtic won 2-0 at home to St Mirren while Rangers kept the pace at St Johnstone.

SECOND-HALF GOALS FROM Cameron Carter-Vickers and Callum McGregor earned Celtic another crucial three cinch Premiership points against St Mirren.

Carter-Vickers lashed home from close range to ease the tension at Parkhead 10 minutes after the break after Celtic had struggled to cut through a well-drilled visiting team.

The opener did not open the floodgates by any means but Celtic’s lead was never threatened before McGregor doubled it in the 81st minute when he drilled home from inside the box.

The 2-0 victory kept the leaders three points clear of Rangers with nine games remaining after the latter won 1-0 at St Johnstone.

Manager Ange Postecoglou had warned the leaders would face a battle in every game of the run-in with every team in the league playing for something, and St Mirren provided just that.

Ahead of the game, only Celtic had collected more Premiership points than St Mirren in 2022, despite the Buddies playing one less game than most of the division.

Celtic were again without Giorgos Giakoumakis, who was absent for the goalless draw with Hibernian on Sunday through illness, and they missed his penalty-box presence at times.

St Mirren manager Stephen Robinson lined up with five defenders with the added protection of Alan Power and Alex Gogic in central midfield. Greg Kiltie and Jordan Jones were tasked with supporting lone striker Curtis Main when they were not tied up with defensive duties themselves.

St Mirren had an early let-off when Charles Dunne sliced a clearance off his own bar following a cross from Jota.

The Portuguese winger soon provided two decent chances from the left. Liel Abada’s side-footed effort was parried by Jak Alnwick and Josip Juranovic was too high with a fierce first-time effort from just outside the box.

Richard Tait’s low cross caused some danger at the other end but Joe Hart ultimately dealt with it.

Celtic’s best first-half chance came from a set-piece. Daizen Maeda peeled off the goalkeeper to meet Matt O’Riley’s inswinging free-kick but headed well wide.

There were clear signs of restlessness in the home support and clear-cut chances proved elusive in the final stages of the half.

Both Maeda and Jota headed off target with their backs to goal and Alnwick made a meal of parrying the latter’s curling effort.

The frustration was even more audible just after the break when Celtic lost possession from a short corner and McGregor was forced into taking a booking to stop Jones breaking.

A more direct set-piece soon led to the opener. Jota delivered from the right after being fouled by Scott Tanser and Carl Starfelt got the first contact before Carter-Vickers volleyed home from inside the six-yard box.

Postecoglou brought on the likes of Tom Rogic and James Forrest and Celtic continued to play the majority of the game in St Mirren’s half without boasting their maximum fluency.

The cushion came after a good break down the right from Juranovic, whose cross ultimately fell for McGregor to fire into the far corner from 14 yards.

Postecoglou brought on Karamoko Dembele for the attacker’s first appearance since fracturing an ankle in pre-season.

rangers-glen-kamara-scores-the-opening-goal-during-the-cinch-premiership-match-at-mcdiarmid-park-perth-picture-date-wednesday-march-2-2022 Glen Kamara scores what proved to be the winner for Rangers. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Glen Kamara’s early goal helped Rangers beat St Johnstone 1-0 and keep the pressure on their neighbours, the Finland international’s effort securing the Light Blues’ first win in five away games.

Dogged Saints, locked in a relegation battle with Tayside rivals Dundee, refused to buckle after that disastrous start to ensure a nervous run-in for Rangers manager Giovanni Van Bronckhorst, who opted to keep all his substitutes on the bench.

The Saints line-up showed two changes from the side which lost 3-1 at Ross County, with Nadir Ciftci stepping in for on-loan Rangers attacker Glenn Middleton and James Brown replacing recent arrival Dan Cleary in central defence.

Van Bronckhorst made just one change in the wake of a 2-2 draw with Motherwell, with centre-back Leon Balogun coming in and winger Fashion Sakala dropping to the bench as part of a tactical tweak.

Throughout the game, visiting supporters occupying stands at either end of the stadium voiced their hostility to November’s planned friendly with Celtic in Sydney.

But they were celebrating when Kamara stroked them into a third-minute lead.

The Saints backline was dissected all too easily by a delicate touch from Alfredo Morelos on the edge of the penalty area and Kamara ignored offside pleas to tuck a calm finish past static keeper Elliot Parish.

In the 18th minute, Balogun failed to clear Jacob Butterfield’s corner but Jamie McCart’s lob veered well off target.

Two minutes later Morelos smashed an angled strike off the base of the post as Rangers looked to double their advantage.

Saints recovered their composure after the troubled start, with striker Callum Hendry leading the line and taking punishment from both Balogun and Connor Goldson, although referee Willie Collum showed a yellow card to Calvin Bassey for felling Brown in full flight.

Rangers keeper Allan McGregor was tested shortly before half-time when he dropped to his left to seize Butterfield’s drilled 25-yarder.

Rangers pair Scott Arfield and Ryan Kent both blazed shots over the target before the half-time whistle.

Minutes into the second half Morelos got his head to a Kent cross but the Colombian’s effort did not trouble Parish.

But the stand-in keeper, again covering for injured Zander Clark, had to react to prevent an instinctive shot on the drop from Joe Aribo finding the net.

In the 58th minute Arfield should have finished off Aribo’s handiwork but his dinked attempt drifted agonisingly past the target.

Swedish midfielder Melker Hallberg picked up a caution for tripping Kamara and while Saints only half-cleared James Tavernier’s free-kick, an off balance John Lundstram hooked his effort over the crossbar from 16 yards.

Goldson thought he had bagged Rangers’ second with 22 minutes left when he powered home a header from a Tavernier free-kick, only to see an assistant’s flag raised for offside.

With Saints still in the contest, a short back header from Tavernier allowed Ali Crawford to beat McGregor to the ball but the midfielder could not exploit the confusion and Rangers got back on track in the title race.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel