St Mirren 1 Celtic 2
John Guidetti’s second-half strike gave Celtic a deserved 2-1 Premiership win over St Mirren in Paisley in a match of only sporadic inspiration and excitement.
Home midfielder Thomas Reilly hit the woodwork in the third minute but that was the closest either side came to a goal until three minutes from the break.
A tangle between Guidetti, St Mirren goalkeeper Marian Kello and player-coach Jim Goodwin, in trying to deal with a Scott Brown cut-back, ended up with the ball crossing the line for Celtic’s opening goal, Guidetti claiming and credited with it.
Buddies midfielder Kenny McLean levelled four minutes after the break but the champions stormed back and their second goal arrived in the 63rd minute when Guidetti fired past Kello.
Celtic manager Ronny Deila will now prepare for the visit of Dinamo Zagreb in the Europa League on Thursday knowing that a better performance will be required if they are to secure their first Group D win.
Swedish striker Guidetti, who scored his first goal since arriving on loan from Man City in the 3-0 League Cup victory over Hearts on Wednesday, will be ineligible for the European tie so Deila must look elsewhere for a match winner.
St Mirren, with only one league win this season, were certainly not lacking in effort but will have to find a way to start gathering points before the pressure on manager Tommy Craig intensifies, although once again he was hit by injuries.
Jason Naismith, Sean Kelly, John McGinn and Thomas Reilly came into his side, with Adam Drury, Gary Teale and Isaac Osbourne out and Gregg Wylde starting on the bench.
Kris Commons and Jason Denayer dropped out of the Celtic side through injury, replaced by 19-year-old Eoghan O’Connell and winger Mubarak Wakaso, the latter making his league debut.
There was an eventful start to the game.
Kello had to rush from his goal to thwart Guidetti before Celtic left-back Emilio Izaguirre flashed the ball across the St Mirren goal, failing to find a touch.
Reilly then sent a thundering strike from 25 yards past Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon only to see it crash off the crossbar.
The visitors looked the more likely to get the breakthrough. In the 12th minute a free-kick from wide on the right by Anthony Stokes found Hoops defender Virgil van Dijk but on the stretch the Dutchman volleyed over the bar.
However, until Stokes fired just wide of the target from 20 yards in the 25th minute, little more of note had occurred.
Moments later, McLean headed a free-kick from James Marwood cross across the goal and past the post when he might have hit the target at least.
By then the game had turned into a scrap, at times almost literally.
Six minutes from the break Reilly was rightly booked for taking Wakaso out of the game on the touchline after the Ghanaian winger looked like leaving him in his wake to speed towards goal.
The first half looked ending goalless but in the 42nd minute Izaguirre played in Brown who raced into the penalty area to cut the ball across where Guidetti, Kello and Goodwin all came together, with the Hoops striker happy to see the ball end up over the line.
Wylde replaced Jeroen Tesselaar for the start of the second half with the home side clearly buoyed by their dressing room pep talk.
St Mirren’s leveller in the 49th minute began with a terrible throw out by Gordon who then had to make a fine save from Naismith but ultimately to no avail, as McLean fired in the loose ball.
Celtic rallied and restored their lead when a clever reverse pass from Stokes found Guidetti racing clear of the Buddies defence, and he rifled a shot from 14 yards past Kello before celebrating more enthusiastically than he had for the scrambled opener.
Guidetti soon made way for Stefan Scepovic but it was Van Dijk who went close to getting a third in the 75th minute with a 25-yard free-kick which just missed Kello’s right-hand post.
The visitors finished the game stronger, Brown and Callum McGregor having long-distance efforts before the final whistle.