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Robson penalty gets Celtic off to winning start

SoccerNews in Scottish Premier League 10 Aug 2008

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A Barry Robson penalty ensured Celtic started their Scottish Premier League title defence with a 1-0 victory at home to St Mirren on Sunday.

Although the Parkhead club dominated their opening league match they created few real scoring opportunities.

Only Robson’s penalty in the 62nd minute – with St Mirren’s Will Haining also receiving a red card for hauling down Celtic’s Dutch striker Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink – separated the sides at the end.

However, the Celtic manager Gordon Strachan and the Celtic supporters in the 57,441 crowd, would have been satisfied with the low key win as they bid to secure four SPL crowns in a row.

Before the kick-off, Rosemary Burns, widow of Celtic legend Tommy, who had lost his battle against skin cancer towards the end of the last season, unfurled the SPL championship flag.

The visitors threatened to celebrate the first goal of the match after only a minute’s play. Garry Brady cut in from the right to unleash a powerful left-foot effort which required Celtic’s Polish goalkeeper Artur Boruc to save low to his left.

A minute later Stephen McManus’ header was saved by St Mirren’s goalkeeper Mark Howard, but it was the Saints who continued to look more menacing in the opening exchanges.

After quarter-of-an-hour’s play, Celtic’s Robson and Paul Hartley had established control in the middle of the pitch but the home side were unable to further trouble Howard before the break.

St Mirren almost punished the home team at the start of the second half.

Billy Mehmet’s first time shot from 18-yards in the 48th minute looked destined for the corner of the net until Boruc threw himself to his left to tip the ball onto the post.

The near miss seemed to finally spur Celtic into action.

Defender Gary Caldwell was unlucky not to put them ahead in the 49th minute when his powerful header forced Howard into a fine stop.

Last season’s top goalscorer in the SPL, Scott McDonald, had been largely anonymous in the match but in the 58th minute he sprung into action, heading Aiden McGeady’s cross towards the top corner, forcing Howard to save under his crossbar.

But in the 62nd minute Celtic scored their first goal of the new season after being awarded a penalty.

St Mirren’s central defender Will Haining had allowed Lee Naylor’s hopeful ball forward to run through to Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and just as the Dutch striker prepared to shoot the Saints defender pulled him back.

Referee Eddie Smith pointed to the spot, after showing Haining a straight red card, and Robson duly converted from 12-yards, despite Howard managing to get a hand to the ball.

With the visitors down to 10 men Celtic looked to take advantage.

Scott Brown ended a powerful run forward with a low shot from 20-yards which Howard dived to his left to save.

Although the 10 men Saints battled bravely to try and salvage a point Celtic held on comfortably to secure their victory.

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