Celtic’s 364-day unbeaten run in the Scottish Premiership came to a crashing end as St Mirren climbed to third in the table with a deserved 2-0 victory over the champions.
Almost 12 months to the day since the Hoops’ last league defeat, headers from captain Mark O’Hara (43) and Jonah Ayunga (53) inspired St Mirren to their first home win over Celtic in 12 years and inflicted a first league loss on the visitors in 38 games.
Celtic were tasked with responding to Rangers’ victory over Dundee United on Saturday but delivered an abject attacking performance as Ange Postecoglou’s side failed to restore their five-point lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership.
After losing his last eight matches against the Glasgow club, conceding 27 goals in the process, it was a maiden victory over Celtic to savour for St Mirren manager Stephen Robinson, who sees his side move up to third, six points behind Celtic, in the table.
St Mirren stun Celtic as 38-game unbeaten run ends
A minute’s applause in memory of Queen Elizabeth II was marred by unsavoury chants from sections of the travelling Celtic support, with some fans singing ‘if you hate the Royal Family clap your hands’ while a banner containing the same phrase could be seen in the away end.
Once the game got under way, Celtic had 81 per cent of the possession in the first 45 minutes – the most they have had in the first half of a Scottish Premiership match since a 5-0 victory over Partick Thistle in 2017 – but failed to create anything of note and went in behind at the break.
Following the 1-1 draw with Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League on Wednesday night, Postecoglou rang the changes with former Saints player Aaron Mooy, Anthony Ralston, Stephen Welsh, David Turnbull, Daizen Maeda and Liel Abada coming into the side, while Scott Tanser replaced Richard Tait for St Mirren.
Ryan Strain spearheaded St Mirren’s threat on the counter-attack and the right-back laid on the opener as his sumptuous cross found captain O’Hara, who ghosted in unmarked at the back post to plant a forceful header past Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart.
Postecoglou introduced Jota and Reo Hatate at the break in a bid to galvanise the Celtic attack but, after another defensive lapse, the visitors were two down before they knew it. Curtis Main outmuscled Stephen Welsh to keep a long throw alive, flicking the ball onto Ayunga to head in the second.
Giorgos Giakoumakis and Sead Haksabanovic were brought on as Celtic turned to their substitutes for inspiration, but it was not forthcoming, and St Mirren should have put the game to bed when O’Hara headed wide on 62 minutes.
Moritz Jenz, Giakoumakis and Greg Taylor all forced saves from goalkeeper Trevor Carson but Celtic’s comeback failed to materialise as St Mirren saw out a famous and deserved victory to reignite the early title race.
Postecoglou: Team selection probably not right
Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou: “First thing, credit to St Mirren, they worked really hard and were committed to their game plan and made it difficult for us. The performance today wasn’t up to our levels and nowhere near where it needs to be.
“From our perspective, we didn’t perform in any of the areas we like to perform in and have been performing in. There isn’t anything hugely positive we can take from today, including team selection, probably wasn’t right. There are always reminders we still have work to do. Every team is a potential hurdle.”
Robinson hails ‘outstanding’ Main performance
St Mirren manager Stephen Robinson: “Full credit to the players. The boys are the ones who do it on the pitch, they’re tired and still trying to take the tactical information on board in a real, real good performance from them.
“I thought we were excellent to a man, but Curtis Main was outstanding. He held the ball up for us, never tired in the game, even at the end. It’s not often I’ll give individuals mentions, but he deserves one today. He gives so much more than just goals.
“Celtic are a top, top side. When playing them, you need people to be brave and get a hold of the ball. That’s the most pleasing aspect of the game today for me, we played and passed and hit them on the break.”
Man of the Match – Mark O’Hara
“It was comfortable actually,” said St Mirren captain and man-of-the-match Mark O’Hara. “It’s massive. We’ve worked all week on a game plan. To see it come off is brilliant. Everybody was up for it, everybody was on it. I should’ve scored another.”
Celtic will return from the international break with a home game against Motherwell on October 1. St Mirren host Livingston on the same day. That match kicks-off at 3pm.