THEIR goal was put in the net almost apologetically but St Johnstone expressed no regret whatsoever for forcing Celtic to drop their first points of the season. The players of Bayern Munich, Paris St Germain and Anderlecht will arrive at this ground in the next weeks and months but yesterday it was the turn of the Perth side, who arrived in Glasgow with an identical record to the reigning Premiership champions and still had one as they made their way back up the A9. Despite coming within nine minutes of losing it, Celtic still retained ownership of their 53-match, 16 month unbeaten domestic record, though, thanks to a late goal from Callum McGregor which must go down as a riposte of sorts to Scotland manager Gordon Strachan for once again leaving him out of the national team squad.

From the moment Murray Davidson was knocked unconscious in the game's very first minute - the St Johnstone midfielder lost teeth in the aerial challenge with Scott Brown and his own team-mate Aaron Comrie, regaining consciousness only as he was stretchered off the field and spending the rest of the afternoon under observation at a Glasgow hospital - you suspected this would be an eventful afternoon at Parkhead.

As might have been anticipated, referee Willie Collum and his officiating team - not least linesman Douglas Ross, a Tory MP who is under investigation by the compliance officer for online comments made about his wish to crack down "on gypsies and travellers" if he ever became Prime Minister - were the centre of attention, though not always in the way you might have expected.

So convinced was Steven MacLean that he was offside when, with half time approaching, he took the ball down and knocked it into the bottom corner of the net in a matter-of-fact manner that he said afterwards that he felt the linesman must have been drunk for awarding the goal. But not only were Celtic the instigators of their own downfall, as Craig Gordon had shovelled a Tony Ralston back pass straight to Liam Craig, it turned out that the 18-year-old full back, way out near the corner flag, was playing MacLean offside. The former Rangers player could hardly believe his luck as he ran off to milk the moment in front of the home fans.

"I thought I was offside, I'll be honest," said MacLean. "I was just taking the mick. I put in and turned round and they were saying, 'he's gave it'. I looked across and thought, 'the linesman must be steaming'.

"Griffiths had one which he put in the net after the whistle earlier and Willie Collum never booked him and I said to Willie 'you'll let me off if I kick it into the net', so I put in thinking that but he has given it and the boys are saying the right-back played me on. Just as well I put it in."

A lively day for the same man saw him spurn a glorious second-half opportunity to double St Johnstone's money when his header was parried by Craig Gordon from a pinpoint Brian Easton cross, then find himself somewhat lucky to stay on the field. Home supporters bayed for him to be sent off rather than booked when he appeared to aim something of a forearm smash at Kieran Tierney after a wrestling match, but the two were cracking jokes about it soon afterwards and no-one in Celtic colours felt moved to make a huge deal out of the incident.

"We were just having a bit of craic, it was a coming together and I said to him, 'I am old enough to be your old man'," said MacLean, 35 on Wednesday. "We just brushed together but after the game we were having a carry on and I said, 'I never caught you once' and he said 'no worries'. I didn't even think it was foul, I never touched him. I'm more interested in the fight tonight."

Instead Rodgers upbraided his team for a rather sluggish first half performance and said that the 6,000-mile round trip to Kazakhstan could hardly fail to have taken its toll. Having made two changes from his Astana line-up from the start - Tony Ralston and Tom Rogic came in - he freshened things up by bringing on Stuart Armstrong and Jonny Hayes at half time, with McGregor entering the fray on the hour mark.

By then Celtic had shaken themselves out of their early lethargy. Admirably, making short passes rather than long panicky ones even amid some hysteria in home areas - Rodgers gestured towards them after Kieran Tierney launched one long under pressure - wave after wave of Parkhead attacks were crashing down on the St Johnstone back line, which featured a composed first start for 20-year-old Comrie at right back.

There was an element of good fortune about the equaliser, but Celtic had earned it. The ball broke off Steven Anderson - he and Joe Shaughnessy were outstanding at the back for the Perth side - and broke to McGregor, who lashed the ball in low with his right foot.

Celtic still had time to seal all three points and they so nearly did, Scott Sinclair's shot striking the face of the bar and a late cross breaking off Mikael Lustig and Joe Shaughnessy's head to hit the woodwork again. But referee Collum's whistle sounded, leaving Celtic for once slightly adrift from the summit of the table, and still with St Johnstone for company.