St Johnstone’s defence of the League Cup has ended at the semi-final stage after a 1-0 defeat by Celtic at Hampden thanks to a controversial strike from James Forrest – bringing an end to the Saints’ incredible run of wins at the national stadium that saw them win on their last four outings there.
Last season’s Scottish Cup and League Cup winners were at Hampden in front of fans for the first time under Callum Davidson, looking for a repeat of last tern’s semis as they put up a valiant fight against the Parkhead side.
It was Celtic who, unsusprisingly, made all the early running as Jota threatened Zander Clark’s goal as the Saints defence tried to desperately clear their lines and ease the pressure.
The Portuguese star must have been left wondering how David Turnbull failed to open the scoring when he picked out the Scotland midfielder but Turnbull only succeeded in scooping his effort over the bar.
Having made it through the opening quarter of an hour without conceding, St Johnstone stated to find their footing in the game as they began frustrating Celtic in the middle of the pitch; Bitton and Ralston giving away silly fouls on Chris Kane within a minute or two of each other.
The Saints almost grabbed a shock opener of their own as the opening half neared the halfway mark, chasing down a slack back-pass to Joe Hart as the former England number one took his time and very narrowly avoided being mugged in his six-yard box by Michael O’Halloran.
Despite seeing plenty of the ball, Celtic’s threat had virtually disappeared, St Johnstone looking comfortable out of possession and trying to pose a threat when they had a ball.
Veteran Craig Bryson tried his luck with a strike from distance that was spilled by Hart, the Englishman again failing to cover himself in glory, as the opening 45 quickly ticked away.
There was a flurry of late chances before the end of the opening 45, Celtic slowly starting to find their stride again but St Johnstone defence dealt with everything Angeball had to offer before the teams made their way off at the break.
Just a few minutes after the restart there was a massive blow for St Johnstone, David Wotherspoon going down holding his knee after he looked to suffer a really bad one in the process of making a challenge.
Incredibly he was able to make it off under his own power, Ali Crawford taking his place, and the Canadian will be hoping there is no serious damage with some massive games for club and country coming up.
Celtic again started ramping up the pressure as they looked for the opening goal, starting to be more incisive when they went forward but the Parkhead side lacked any sort of cutting edge in the final third – rarely forcing anything more than a routine save from Clark.
Just as the Celtic support began paying tribute to Lisbon Lion Bertie Auld, Jamie McCart made in incredible block to deny the Hoops the opener and continue to frustrate the Parkhead side.
With just over 15 minutes to go St Johnstone’s resistance was finally broken, James Forrest in the right place at the right time to fire home from close range and take the wind right out of St Johnstone’s sails.
Replays showed a handball by Jota in the build-up, days after complaints over referee Nick Walsh were made public by the Parkhead side.
A late rally from the Saints saw them put plenty of effort into getting back into the game but there was to be no way through as the defence of their League Cup comes to an end.
Celtic: Hart, Ralston, Carter-Vickers, Welsh, Juranovic, Bitton, McGregor, Turnbull, Abada, Jota, Kyogo
Subs: Bain, Scales, Ajeti, McCarthy, Johnston, Soro, Forrest, Montgomery, Urhoghide
St Johnstone: Clark, Rooney, Brown, Gordon, McCart, Booth, Bryson, Davidson, O’Halloran, Wotherspoon, Kane
Subs: Parish, Muller, Ambrose, Dendoncker, Craig, Crawford, Vertainen, Northcott, Moreland
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