Hooper saves Bhoys
Striker's close-range effort steals all three points
Last Updated: November 14, 2010 4:35pm
Hooper: Rescues Bhoys
Gary Hooper struck a close-range injury-time winner to give Celtic a priceless three points in a 1-0 success over St Mirren.
After a forgettable first half, things burst into life following the interval with Michael Higdon's long-range effort cannoning off the crossbar.
As the game progressed, Celtic pushed further and further up the field and for much of the latter stages were camped in the Buddies' half.
Just when it looked like it might not be Celtic's day, Hooper latched onto Paddy McCourt's cross and stabbed home at the second time of asking.
The win moves Celtic back to within a point of leaders Rangers while St Mirren remain in ninth, two points clear of bottom-of-the-table Hamilton.
A minute's silence in commemoration of Remembrance Sunday was perfectly observed by both sets of fans.
The visitors, inspired by South Korean midfielder Ki Sung-yong, looked sharp and purposeful in the opening stages and St Mirren found themselves pinned back in their own half.
However, despite their dominance of possession, Celtic were finding it hard to break down the Saints defence.
The Paisley side's confidence grew gradually but by the halfway point neither goalkeeper had made a proper save.
On the half-hour mark, from a Shaun Maloney corner, Celtic striker Anthony Stokes headed over the bar from 12 yards.
Three minutes later, John Potter was booked for a hack at Maloney as the Parkhead skipper threatened to burst into the box following slack play in the Buddies' rearguard.
Maloney's free-kick from 25 yards was deflected over by the wall for another corner which the home side survived.
As the tempo dropped a little, Stokes had a tame effort from distance five minutes from the break which goalkeeper Craig Samson saved with ease, before Ki fired wide from a similar distance.
It took only a minute for Celtic for force their first corner of the second half but Mark Wilson took a Maloney pass at the edge of the box and blasted high over.
Saints began to make inroads and in the 52nd minute an unexpected 35-yard dipping volley from Higdon beat goalkeeper Fraser Forster only to rebound off the bar.
In the 57th minute, just after Maloney had cleared the bar with a right-footed drive from the edge of the box, Stokes was replaced by Daryl Murphy.
Moments later Hooper's close-range header was saved by Samson down to his right when it looked certain that the former Scunthorpe striker would score.
Niall McGinn replaced Cha on the hour mark as Celtic tried to step up the pace and seconds later the Northern Ireland international squared the ball to Maloney, whose wayward shot from six yards did not even go behind for a corner.
At the other end, Forster brilliantly tipped a powerful drive from Gareth Wardlaw over the bar.
Murphy headed into the side netting at the back post from a McGinn cross from the right and, as the pressure intensified, the former Derry City winger forced a decent save from Samson with a powerful drive from the edge of the box.
McCourt replaced Juarez with 15 minutes remaining but it was fellow Irishman McGinn who had a drive from close-range well saved by Samson following a wonderful defence-splitting pass from Ki.
Higdon then sent another long-distance drive whistling past Forster's right-hand post.
The final minutes were tense as Celtic drove forward and in the second minute of added time Hooper grabbed a dramatic winner from three yards out to spark wild scenes of celebration.
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