St Mirren vs Celtic. Scottish Premiership.
The SMiSA StadiumAttendance6,943.
Report as Daizen Maeda scores inside opening 60 seconds before Matt O'Riley nets Celtic's second within first six minutes; St Mirren’s Toyosi Olusanya shown red card after VAR check in first-half added time; Greg Taylor nets third for Celtic with second-half volley
Wednesday 3 January 2024 06:20, UK
Celtic maintained their eight-point lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership with a blistering start at 10-player St Mirren to earn a 3-0 victory.
Brendan Rodgers' side built on their crucial 2-1 win over rivals Rangers last week by comfortably seeing off the fifth-placed Saints.
Celtic raced into an early two-goal lead with Daizen Maeda scoring inside the opening 60 seconds before Matt O'Riley added a second within the first six minutes.
St Mirren's task was made even harder when Toyosi Olusanya was shown a straight red card following a VAR check for a raised boot on goalkeeper Joe Hart in added time of the first half and Greg Taylor netted the third with an hour played to secure the win.
Celtic were ahead after 55 seconds when O'Riley collected Callum McGregor's forward pass and played the ball inside St Mirren wing-back Scott Tanser for Maeda to run onto and beat goalkeeper Zach Hemming.
O'Riley soon had his 10th league goal of the season. Luis Palma fed Paulo Bernardo's run into the box and the Portuguese midfielder spun past Alex Gogic and teed up O'Riley, who sidestepped Tanser and slotted through Hemming's legs.
Maeda put in some dangerous crosses from the right as Celtic continued to control the game. They had further chances from set-pieces with Maik Nawrocki unable to get on the end of Kyogo Furuhashi's flick-on and O'Riley heading beyond the far post.
St Mirren's only first-half effort was an off-target strike from Olusanya following a loose pass from Liam Scales. And a rare attack late in the half only worsened their situation.
Olusanya went in with a raised boot as Hart punched the ball clear and caught the Celtic goalkeeper in the face with his studs. Referee David Munro initially booked the St Mirren forward but was called to his monitor by video assistant referee Steven McLean and there was no surprise when he amended his card.
The second half started like an attack versus defence training routine as Taylor passed up a good chance to shoot and Palma shot over.
Hemming made a brilliant save from O'Riley shortly before Bernardo's beautiful lofted pass set up Taylor to volley home from six yards on the hour mark.
Furuhashi headed wide from close range and Brendan Rodgers brought on three players who will join Maeda at the Asian Cup this month - the forward's Japan team-mate Reo Hatate and South Korea pair Yang Hyun-jun and Oh Hyeon-gyu.
Hemming kept the score down, pulling off point-blank saves from Yang and fellow substitute Liel Abada, twice each, and Oh.
Scales also headed off the post and Alistair Johnston missed a good chance as Celtic looked to boost their goal difference.
Sky Sports' Chris Sutton: "Olusanya is entitled to commit for the cross. It's a genuine attempt to put it in. Some people may look at that as dangerous play but Hart has dived down on that.
"I really feel for Olusanya. Sometimes in football, there are accidents. He's trying to score a goal. What's he supposed to do?"
Former Celtic captain Scott Brown: "That's a straight red, he's kicked him in the face."
Sky Sports' Kris Boyd: "There's no doubt the ball is there and you've got to go and challenge it, but he's nearly taken his head off."
Former Scotland striker James McFadden: "It's a red card."
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers told Sky Sports: "Very proud of the team over the last number of weeks.
"On the back of the Rangers game, this can be a really tough place to come, but they started the game so well and scored two really good goals.
"We got the chance to play against 10 men and we were much better than we were at the weekend. Our only downside is we got in each other's way to stop the ball going in the net!"
On Matt O'Riley: "He's an outstanding player and a nice little dink with his right foot.
"He's approaching double figures in terms of his goals and that's what I need from my central midfield players."
St Mirren manager Stephen Robinson told Sky Sports: "We didn't make life easy for ourselves. It was a long night. We knew they'd come out bright, we started poorly and it was compounded by the red card.
"If you're going to give yourself an uphill task against a team like Celtic's quality then we don't have any chance of winning the game.
"We didn't lose the game because of the red card, we lost the game because of our start. I'm not sure what he's meant to do. Is he meant to pull out and not try to score?"
Celtic midfielder Matt O'Riley told Sky Sports: "100 games has gone really, really quicky. I'm really proud, proud to play for this club and hopefully a lot more to come.
"Never let off the gas and have fun. It's very easy to put a lot of pressure on yourself, especially playing at Celtic.
"I'm just going out there to enjoy it as we only get one life."
The Scottish Premiership now stops for the winter break, with all teams returning to action in the Scottish Cup.
St Mirren host Championship side Queen of the South on January 20 at 3pm.
Celtic face Highland League club Buckie Thistle at Parkhead on January 21. Kick-off 4pm.