St Johnstone 0-3 Celtic

Celtic got their Scottish Premiership title defence off to a winning start with victory over St Johnstone.

Anthony Stokes opened the scoring with an assured finish from a tight angle after a defensive error by Steven Anderson.

And, a penalty from Nir Biton and strike by Callum McGregor were enough to ensure they took all three points.

St Johnstone felt aggrieved when Dave Mackay was not awarded a penalty, with the captain later sent off in the incident that led to Biton's spot-kick.

Celtic manager Ronny Deila

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Interview - Celtic manager Ronny Delia

Mackay went down after a challenge by Virgil van Dijk in the box when the score was 1-0.

And, later, the right-back was dismissed for a challenge on Derk Boerrigter, though replays suggested there had been little contact.

The result means Ronny Deila's men look to Saturday's visit of early league leaders Dundee United with renewed vigour as they aim to stamp their authority on the division from the outset.

After a far from ideal introduction to his new club, courtesy of the ongoing controversy surrounding their Champions League tie against Legia Warsaw and the below-par performances that preceded the off-the-field drama, the man in the visiting dugout needed nothing less than a victory in his first domestic outing.

With players such as Fraser Forster having exited during the summer, the onus was on this crop - which included the England international's replacement, Craig Gordon - to produce the type of performance that would instil confidence in the new regime.

Dave Mackay shown straight red by John Beaton
Mackay was dismissed after Boerrigter fell in the penalty area

They started brightly, with Emilio Izaguirre and Kris Commons - making his 100th appearance - looking lively.

And could have taken the lead when neat play from Commons allowed James Forrest to find space, but he could only drag his shot wide.

The Perth men - who took to the pitch on the back of an opening day win against Ross County - were largely penned in during the opening exchanges and struggled to make an impression.

That was until they came close, against the run of play, when Steven MacLean hammered in a shot from the edge of the box that stung the palms of Gordon.

Stokes had Celtic's best chance of the first half when his free-kick went narrowly wide.

St Johnstone boss Tommy Wright

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Interview - St Johnstone boss Tommy Wright

After the break, St Johnstone's Michael O'Halloran fired an effort that cannoned off team-mate MacLean and went inches past Gordon's right-hand post.

Having kept their opponents at bay for so long, the hosts caused their own undoing when Anderson dwelt on the ball and Commons was able to send Stokes through.

The striker then rounded Alan Mannus and rolled the ball into the net.

Saints did not let their heads go down, and Mackay ventured into the Celtic area, only to be closed down by Van Dijk. However, referee John Beaton allowed play to go on after the home fans shouted for a foul.

And Mackay's night went from bad to worse when he was adjudged to have tripped substitute Boerrigter and was dismissed by Beaton.

Biton converted the resulting penalty confidently to double the visitors' lead.

Dutchman Boerrigter, who had earlier threatened with a venomous free-kick that looked destined for the target but for a solid Mannus save, was causing problems with his pace and the stretched home backline lost a third late on.

After a flowing move, McGregor added to the tally with a fizzing shot that squirmed under Mannus and rolled over the line.

As It Stood

TeamPWDLGDPts
1Dundee Utd220046
2Inverness CT211024
3Partick Thistle110043
4Celtic110033
5Hamilton210103
6Motherwell210103
7Aberdeen2101-13
8St Johnstone2101-23
9Dundee202002
10Kilmarnock2011-21
11St Mirren2002-30
12Ross County2002-50
View full Scottish Premiership table

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