Celtic 7-0 St Johnstone: Ryan Christie hat-trick in thumping win

Celtic 7-0 St Johnstone: Ryan Christie hat-trick in thumping win

Ryan Christie completed his hat-trick with a sublime strike from distance

Ryan Christie hit a hat-trick as Celtic crushed St Johnstone in a stunning start to their bid to make it nine titles in a row.

The league flag was raised before kick-off and Mikey Johnston kept the celebrations going with a fine finish.

Christie added a double before the break, his first a beauty and his second thanks to a Zander Clark error. He made it 4-0 with a cracking strike before Olivier Ntcham, Odsonne Edouard and Leigh Griffiths added goals of their own in a thumping victory.

The result ensures Celtic sit top of the table on day one and is a clear sign of intent from Neil Lennon's side, but St Johnstone were miles off the pace as their miserable start to the season continues.

High-class Celtic way too much

Given their awful League Cup campaign, with losses to Montrose and Forfar, the last place in Scotland that St Johnstone would have wanted to come on opening day was Celtic Park. If those cup defeats were painful for manager Tommy Wright, then this only added to the misery.

The place was electrified before a ball was kicked, the title flag raised by Liz McNeill and Sadie Chalmers, widows of the great and lamented Billy and Stevie. And Celtic were a blur of movement, imagination and goal threat from the start. When Christie wasn't causing them bother, it was Johnston. When it wasn't Johnston, it was James Forrest or Edouard or, later still, Griffiths. It was a high-class victory.

There was a debut for right-back Hatem Abd Elhamed and he was impressive, too, before he limped off early in the second half. By then, it had become a rout. The only saving grace for the visitors was that the three they had conceded hadn't become five or six. That pain would come later. Celtic's speed of thought and hunger for goals was way too much for the Perth side to cope with.

The champions were ahead after nine minutes when Christie's cross-field ball was gathered by Johnston, the winger then turning his unfortunate marker, Wallace Duffy, outside, inside and then outside again before slamming his shot past Clark.

Celtic's goals total in the league was only 77 last season, a sizeable fall from their average over the course of their first seven titles in their run of eight. Johnston only played in 36% of those games. Christie played in only 60%. Those two alone should ensure their ruthlessness in front of goal rockets skywards. Griffiths scored only twice in the last league campaign. In a better place now with his health, he's already halfway towards matching what he did a season ago.

Leigh Griffiths completed the rout after coming on as a substitute

Christie once again hammered home the point about Celtic being a far different attacking proposition when taking Forrest's pass on the right-hand side of the D and then smashing an unstoppable shot high past Clark. A peach to go with the pearler he got against Nomme Kalju in Europe.

His second, and Celtic's third, came just before the half-hour when Christie drilled a shot straight at Clark only for the keeper to let it go by him and into his net. They could have had more before the break, too, with Forrest (twice) and Edouard all creating trouble.

Just when you thought that the visitors might be spared any more punishment, Christie popped up again. St Johnstone once again gave him space outside the box, Christie once again measured his shot and this outstanding footballer once again lashed a left-footer past Clark via the underside of his crossbar for his hat-trick.

The thing about it was that it looked effortless. It looked like the type of goal he might fire home in training. It was his sixth in a matter of weeks. Already he's almost halfway towards his goals total from all of last season.

More goals followed, Edouard putting Ntcham away just seconds after the Frenchman had come on for the serenaded Christie. Ntcham, with his first touch, thumped home the fifth.

St Johnstone needed their bus to appear at the side of the pitch to take them away at that point. What they got was Griffiths coming on and putting Edouard away for the sixth, the striker going around Clark before scoring.

Then, Griffiths rifled in a goal of his own. A seventh and a gorgeous strike on a day of gorgeous strikes. A fitting end to a performance that started really well and only got better after that.

Man of the match - Ryan ChristieRyan Christie made it 2-0 with a sensational left-foot strike

Ryan Christie showed his excellence last season, but he looks to have upped it in a very significant way. Christie is a happy amalgam of Callum McGregor and Stuart Armstrong - all the high energy and passing range of the former and all the cleverness and goal threat of the latter, at his 2016-17 season best.

This was a day when every Celtic player did their stuff, but Christie's hat-trick stood out. His strikes for his first and third goals were as sweet as you'll find. Not just that, his influence was constant. Mikey Johnston, Christie and James Forrest are going to cause some amount of mayhem on this evidence.

Post-match reaction

St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright: "There were two teams on the pitch - one was absolutely brilliant and the other was poor. We conceded an early goal and did not have enough belief when we had the ball.

"At least four of the goals are outside of the box with people not doing their jobs.

"This afternoon shows there is a huge gulf in class of the squads. It was a poor afternoon but one we dust ourselves down from."

Wright added that he has been looking for a striker but "now we maybe need more than a striker".

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