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Fast start helps Celtic brush aside St Mirren

Matt O’Riley provided a goal and assist inside the first six minutes as Celtic cruised to a 3-0 victory over 10-man St Mirren.

Daizen Maeda and Greg Taylor were also on target in Paisley as Celtic went into the cinch Premiership winter break eight points clear of Rangers, who have two games in hand.

Toyosi Olusanya was sent off in first-half stoppage-time after catching Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart in the face with a high boot.

It was deja vu for St Mirren manager Stephen Robinson, whose team received red cards in their previous home matches against both Celtic and Rangers.

While the previous dismissals changed the course of those games, Celtic were in command of this one from the very start.

The champions went ahead 56 seconds in after O’Riley collected Callum McGregor’s forward pass and played the ball inside St Mirren wing-back Scott Tanser for Maeda to run onto and beat Zach Hemming.

O’Riley soon had his 10th league goal of the season. Luis Palma fed Paulo Bernardo’s run into the box and the Portuguese midfielder spun past Alex Gogic and teed up O’Riley, who sidestepped Tanser and slotted through Hemming’s legs.

Maeda put in some dangerous crosses from the right as Celtic continued to control the game. They had further chances from set-pieces with Maik Nawrocki unable to get on the end of Kyogo Furuhashi’s flick-on and O’Riley heading beyond the far post.

St Mirren’s only first-half effort was an off-target strike from Olusanya following a loose pass from Liam Scales. And a rare attack late in the half only worsened their situation.

Olusanya went in with a raised boot as Hart punched the ball clear and caught the Celtic goalkeeper in the face with his studs. Referee David Munro initially booked the St Mirren forward but was called to his monitor by video assistant referee Steven McLean and there was no surprise when he amended his card.

The second half started like an attack versus defence training routine as Taylor passed up a good chance to shoot and Palma shot over.

Hemming made a brilliant save from O’Riley shortly before Bernardo’s beautiful lofted pass set up Taylor to volley home from six yards on the hour mark.

Furuhashi headed wide from close range and Brendan Rodgers brought on three players who will join Maeda at the Asian Cup this month – the forward’s Japan team-mate Reo Hatate and South Korea pair Yang Hyun-jun and Oh Hyeon-gyu.

It was Hatate’s first appearance since suffering a hamstring injury against Atletico Madrid on October 25.

Hemming kept the score down, pulling off point-blank saves from Yang and fellow substitute Liel Abada, twice each, and Oh.

Scales also headed off the post and Alistair Johnston missed a good chance as Celtic looked to boost their goal difference.

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