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Page last updated at 13:25 GMT, Sunday, 10 August 2008 14:25 UK

Celtic 1-0 St Mirren

By Clive Lindsay

Barry Robson celebrates with Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink
Robson scored after Vennegoor of Hesselink won the penalty

Celtic got their defence of the Scottish Premier League title off to a winning start thanks to a controversial Barry Robson penalty against St Mirren.

The Buddies had matched their more illustrious opponents, with a Billy Mehmet drive striking a post.

But referee Eddie Smith ruled that Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink had been held back by defender Will Haining when the striker was through on goal.

Haining was sent off and Robson's spot kick spun over the line off the keeper.

The widow of the late Celtic coach Tommy Burns, who died from cancer in May, had raised the championship flag ahead of kick-off as Celtic made an emotional start to their title defence.

Rosemary Burns was aided by team captain Stephen McManus, who had recovered from a groin problem to take his place in a now-familiar starting line-up from which injured midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura was the only absentee.

St Mirren manager Gus MacPherson selected just Mehmet up front, a defensive formation perhaps dictated as much by the absence through injury of the influential Andy Dorman, Gary Mason and Craig Dargo as a desire to frustrate their hosts.

But, although Celtic started with a bit of flag-waving gusto, it was the visitors who were first to find the target, with Garry Brady and Stephen McGinn firing long-range efforts at Artur Boruc that the goalkeeper nevertheless dealt with fairly comfortably.

Celtic were also being restricted to long range apart from a head flick by Scott McDonald that ended up going over the crossbar from an Andreas Hinkel cross.

The first half closed with the Glasgow side having given the 57,000 crowd little to cheer following the pre-match euphoria.

Will Haining and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink clash in the penalty box
Haining and Vennegoor of Hesselink joined hands at Celtic Park

There was some concern in the St Mirren dressing-room over the fitness of Tom Brighton, making his competitive debut for the club along with Jack Ross, but the former Clyde and Millwall striker emerged again after the break.

It was the Celtic defence who were doing the worrying as the second half started, Stephen O'Donnell setting up Mehmet on the edge of the box and the striker's side-footed drive would have found the net had Boruc's outstretched hand not turned the ball on to a post.

Celtic responded immediately and Gary Caldwell ought to have done better than head straight at Howard from 12 yards after being found unmarked at a free-kick.

Vennegoor of Hesselink had half-hearted claims for a penalty waved away after a chase with Howard to a slack Ross pass-back.

But Celtic's Dutch striker won the spot kick that led to the deadlock being broken after 62 minutes.

Vennegoor of Hesselink pounced when the Buddies defence failed to deal with a long ball through the heart of the defence and poked the ball wide of the post under pressure from Haining.

Referee Smith decided that the striker had been tugged from behind by the defender, who was shown a red card, although television pictures suggested that Vennegoor of Hesselink had been doing his own share of holding.


Howard saved Robson's spot kick with his legs but could not prevent the ball spinning a matter of inches over the line before the goalkeeper swiped it clear.

The 10-man Buddies almost equalised immediately, but an O'Donnell snap-shot flew wide of the far post.

Celtic should have gone two ahead, but Vennegoor of Hesselink headed wide from 10 yards.

St Mirren remained a threat and substitute Marc McAusland sent a header just over, but it was Celtic who took all three points after a victory that was more workmanlike than inspired.

Celtic: Boruc, Hinkel, Caldwell, McManus, Naylor (Wilson 74), Robson (Caddis 81), Scott Brown, Hartley, McGeady, Vennegoor of Hesselink, McDonald (Samaras 75).
Subs Not Used: Mark Brown, Donati, O'Dea, McGowan.

Booked: Vennegoor of Hesselink.

Goals: Robson 62 pen.

St Mirren: Howard, Ross, Haining, Potter, Miranda, Murray, Brady (Gilerao 63), O'Donnell (Wyness 82), McGinn, Mehmet, Brighton (McAusland 63).
Subs Not Used: Smith, Hamilton, Barron, McCay.

Sent Off: Haining (61).

Att: 57,441

Ref: E Smith

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Celtic's Artur Boruc 7.62 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

see also
MacPherson cagey on ref display
10 Aug 08 |  St Mirren
SPL as it happened
10 Aug 08 |  Scottish Premier
SPL photo gallery
09 Aug 08 |  Scottish Premier

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