Celtic stretched their lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership table to four points with a 3-0 win over St Mirren on Saturday afternoon.

This result – coupled with Ross County’s 3-2 defeat of Rangers in Dingwall – ensured that Brendan Rodgers’ side will be first when the post-split fixtures take place next week. After a slow first half, Reo Hatate’s stunning volley opened the scoring seven minutes after the restart, before Kyogo Furuhashi’s bullet header doubled the hosts’ advantage eight minutes later. Adam Idah would finish off the scoring, in what would turn out to be a very profitable couple of days for the club domestically.

Using StatsBomb data, graphs and metrics, The Celtic Way brings you a match report like no other…

Key stats + race chart

As is usually the case when Celtic play at home, the hosts dominated proceedings in every single way. 19 shots were taken by Rodgers’ team, with nine of them on target and three amounting to goals for the side. St Mirren only had two off-target shots, in what was a difficult afternoon for the visitors in an attacking sense. They also only had 29 per cent of the ball, as Celtic had a mammoth 71 per cent of possession in Saturday’s game. With an xG of 2.58 to 0.12 in favour of the home side, there was only going to be one winner judging by these stats, with Celtic asserting their power to good effect in the second half.

Though the second 45 minutes were far more in favour of Rodgers’ side, St Mirren amazingly had a better xG score going into the break. Only three opportunities in total were made in the first half, with Stephen Robinson’s team accounting for two of them – their only chances in the game. It was an onslaught following the restart, as Celtic accumulated 2.51 in xG in just 45 minutes of play as they flexed their attacking muscles.

Because of these numbers, StatsBomb gave St Mirren a zero per cent chance of winning this contest due to their lack of attacking prowess. Their best hope was a draw at seven per cent, though the hosts’ chances of winning when calculating xG scores sat at a massive 93 per cent. This is much more like it from Rodgers’ title-chasing side.

Team line-ups, positions and passing

There were no surprises sprung by Rodgers with the formation on Saturday, as Celtic lined up with their usual 4-3-3. Despite his poor cameo against Rangers, Yang Hyun-jun was offered an opportunity to redeem himself with a start at left wing, whilst Nicolas Kuhn played on the opposite side. Kyogo was preferred to Idah despite drawing a blank at Ibrox, whilst Tomoki Iwata continued in the midfield in place of Callum McGregor, who came on in the second half. Hatate and Matt O’Riley were trusted to bring the spark in the middle of the park, whilst it was a return to action for Maik Nawrocki at the back, who partnered the imperious Cameron Carter-Vickers in defence. Alistair Johnston, Greg Taylor and Joe Hart made up the rest of the defence, as a strong starting 11 was named by the manager.

Observing the passing network, it is a return to the ‘front eight’ that has been in place for many weeks now in an attacking sense. A reminder that the warmer the circle, the better the OBV (on-ball value) performance from the player.

Celtic’s in-form player put in another tremendous showing – particularly following the restart – in the shape of Johnston at right-back. His large red OBV score reflects this, as Celtic’s main area of success in this metric came down his side alongside Carter-Vickers, O’Rley and Kuhn. The blue colourings down the left show that work needs to be done to even out the side’s attacking proficiency on the ball, as Yang and Taylor struggled, though Hatate excelled despite his low OBV.

The lack of lines to Kyogo indicates, in turn, a lack of service. Despite this, he took his opportunity well in the second half and should have had a double on the day thanks to a chance directly before Celtic’s second goal. Looking at OBV statistics, it will be of little surprise to inform you that Johnston again ruled the roost in this metric. 75 passes accumulated a massive 0.81 in OBV, with Celtic’s next highest being O’Riley at just 0.18. Carter-Vickers had 0.15 OBV, while it was a negative OBV showing for Taylor, Yang, Hatate and Kyogo, who all had negative scores.

This match report is in danger of becoming a Johnston love-in, but he again topped another metric, this time in key passes with four to his name with a combined xG of 0.89. Yang – otherwise disappointing in the contest – had three, whilst fellow wide-men James Forrest and Kuhn had two. Luis Palma had one to his name, in his first appearance since returning from injury.


Celtic’s shot map makes for far better reading/viewing this time around, as all but two of their shots happened outside the box, a sign that they were having joy with their passing game. The side is getting into the groove of creating and taking opportunities, as that is now nine goals in their last three games since their return from the international break. Pretty good going, which is shown in Celtic’s growing goal difference compared to their nearest rivals.

The highlight of Saturday’s game was the return to the scoresheet of Hatate, and what a return it was. Assisted by – you guessed it – Johnston, the ball was in the air when the Japan midfielder struck it, with a clean connection from the outside of his boot leaving Zach Hemming with no chance of getting anywhere near it. 0.13 was the calculated xG for this beauty of a strike, though it rose to 0.63 in PSxG once the ball left his foot. One of the goals of the season, from a player who will have a massive say in the destination of this year’s title, you would suspect.

If Hatate’s goal was all about the strike, then you could argue his fellow countryman’s goal was all down to the cross by Johnston. A perfectly whipped ball into the direction of the striker, Kyogo’s movement was sublime, with his header easily finding its way into the back of Hemming’s net. 0.36 rising to 0.79 in xG and PSxG respectively, the second goal of the afternoon was a perfect display of the growing squad harmony between players under Rodgers, as well as two stalwarts showing that they are on top of their game at the moment.

Eager to make an impact on his return, Palma had the joint-highest shots on the day for Celtic with three alongside Kyogo. Hatate, Kuhn and Taylor all had two, as Celtic were well worthy of their three-goal cushion in the game.

Pressing and defending

St Mirren – as they were out of possession for longer periods – pressured Celtic more at a rate of 198 to 149 in favour of the visitors. Despite this, Celtic had more pressure regains at a rate of 40 to 30, highlighting their superiority in this metric also. O’Riley put in the most work for Celtic in this area with 22, with Kuhn one behind him on 21. The latter had the most counterpressures with six, whilst the former and Johnston had five to their name. A great defensive attitude was shown, which was rewarded with a clean sheet at full-time.

That right flank was busy for Celtic on Saturday defensively, too, as Johnston and Kuhn were tied for the most combined tackles and interceptions with five each. It was a dominating performance from Nawrocki at the back concerning clearances, as he managed 7 in just 60 minutes of action. His defensive partner Carter-Vickers had six aerial duel wins, as the pair presented a solid case for why they should be the first-choice centre-back pairing from now on.