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Covid-hit Celtic see off St Johnstone

Glasgow (AFP) – Celtic coped without a host of first-team regulars due to a coronavirus outbreak to beat St Johnstone 3-1 on Sunday in front of a crowd limited to 500.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon capped crowds for outdoor public events at 500 from December 26 for up to three weeks.

The new rules led to Scottish Premiership clubs bringing forward their winter break by a week following Sunday’s games.

Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou will be relieved to now have three weeks off to build up the strength in his squad.

The Hoops had to field their third-choice goalkeeper Vasilis Barkas with Joe Hart and Scott Bain plus captain Callum McGregor and full-backs Anthony Ralston and Greg Taylor missing due to suspected positive cases for Covid-19.

Celtic already had a lengthy injury list and lost top scorer Kyogo Furuhashi to the recurrence of a hamstring problem early on.

However, the visitors already led at McDiarmid Park by then as Liel Abada forced the ball home from close range after Elliot Parish saved his initial effort.

Abada doubled Celtic’s lead with his 10th goal of the season from Tom Rogic’s fine through ball.

St Johnstone enjoyed their greatest ever season in 2020/21 by winning both domestic cup competitions.

But they are ending the year on a low as an eighth consecutive defeat left them still rooted to the foot of the table.

Substitute Chris Kane’s header gave the home side hope 21 minutes from time.

But Nir Bitton settled Celtic’s nerves on 82 minutes when he fired into the bottom corner from the edge of the box.

Victory for Celtic cuts Rangers’ lead at the top of the table to three points.

The champions can restablish their six-point cushion before the break later on Sunday when they host St. Mirren at Ibrox.

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