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St Johnstone 0 Celtic 3: Luck shows no sign of running out as pivotal decisions go Celtic's way . . .

IF Ronny Deila doesn't play the lottery, then this would probably be a good time to start.

ave Mackay is sent off for St Johnstone after Derk Boerrigter tumbles theatrically in the box; Nir Biton converted the penalty. Picture: SNS
ave Mackay is sent off for St Johnstone after Derk Boerrigter tumbles theatrically in the box; Nir Biton converted the penalty. Picture: SNS

The football gods seem to be shining benignly on the Celtic manager and his players right now, their good fortune over the past week again evident again at McDiarmid Park last night as they got their defence of the SPFL Premiership title up and running with a win.

After a Champions League reprieve - expected to be rubberstamped by UEFA this morning - Celtic enjoyed a dose of good luck on the domestic front as well. They were poor again for large spells against a determined St Johnstone side but, having forged in front through Anthony Stokes early in the second stuff, they would benefit from two contentious decisions in their favour that effectively settled the contest.

It would prove an unhappy night for Dave Mackay. The St Johnstone captain thought he had earned his side a penalty and the chance of an equaliser after colliding with Celtic's Virgil van Dijk but referee John Beaton thought otherwise, waving the claims away.

That disappointment would be compounded later in the half when Mackay was adjudged to have upended Derk Boerrigter, the Celtic substitute, in the St Johnstone box. There did not seem to be a huge amount of contact but Beaton deemed otherwise, sending off Mackay and awarding a penalty that was converted by the Israeli Nir Biton as a "free Gaza" banner fluttered aloft in the Celtic end.

In a further demonstration of when your luck is in, your luck is in, Celtic then scored a third when Callum McGregor's low shot dribbled under the clutches of goalkeeper Alan Mannus. If Deila has cut something of a beleaguered figure in recent weeks, then the Norwegian at least cannot claim he is not getting his share of the breaks.

This was not the most significant event in Celtic's calendar yesterday. Over in Nyon, UEFA were poring over Legia Warsaw's appeal to be reinstated into the Champions League and a decision is expected this morning. Barring a late U-turn - and with UEFA it is always risky to make any presumptions - Celtic will be allowed to continue their preparations to face NK Maribor next week in the first leg of their play-off tie.

It is fair to say both in that game, and in Saturday's home game against Dundee United, Celtic will likely need to perform better than they showed for long spells here. Deila agreed, too.

Until Celtic went in front after 55 minutes it was flat. Flatter than the Netherlands, flat. They had been made to stew for a week since their loss to Warsaw at Murrayfield and Deila had promised things would be better. Instead, it was largely just more of the same. Shorn of the leadership of the injured Scott Brown and the suspended Charlie Mulgrew, Celtic looked lacklustre and unable to raise the pace. There was a belated show of urgency after they moved in front and Deila may just be happy to have got off to a winning start.

There was a first competitive Celtic appearance for goalkeeper Craig Gordon; in fact, a first competitive match in two and a half years. It was as good a comeback as he could have hoped for. A shaky performance would have cast doubts on his future and sent further scorn the way of the Celtic board for not replacing the now-departed Fraser Forster. On this evidence, though, Peter Lawwell can keep his chequebook in the drawer, though the banner that read "back the team, sack the board" suggests the Celtic support is not appeased.

Gordon did not have huge amounts to do but anything thrown at him he handled expertly. The Scotland cap - he bristles at the idea he is a former international - did well to save a Steven MacLean driven effort in the first half, and made a convincing punch clear in the second.

His ice-cool temperament does not seem to have been affected by the long lay-off either. When MacDonald leathered a shot at him from close range long after the whistle had gone, Gordon simply caught the ball and got on with things. His re-emergence already looks like good news for both Deila and Gordon Strachan.

The Scotland manager would also have been pleased to have seen James Forrest start a competitive match for the first time since March. Stationed on the right side of Deila's favoured 4-2-3-1 formation, he brought better balance to the side and also looked the one player capable of lifting Celtic above the mediocre with some darting runs and neat interplay.

By that point Celtic had forged in front. Kris Commons was the creator on an otherwise quiet evening, robbing Steven Anderson as the defender dithered. The ball arrived at the feet of Anthony Stokes who rounded Alan Mannus and scored from a tight angle. Biton's penalty, his first goal for the club, and McGregor's late strike added sheen to the victory.

Celtic's luck seems to be in no danger of running out.

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