Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

Mjallby warns Celtic still have a big point to prove

Celtic 2 St Johnstone 0: Celtic went to within one point of clinching the Clydesdale Bank Premier League title yesterday following their win over St Johnstone at Parkhead and are now also looking to beat last season's points tally of 92, according to assistant Johan Mjallby.

A Georgios Samaras header and an own goal by Saints midfielder Chris Millar after the break left Celtic on 78 points after 32 games and needing only a draw against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park next Saturday to be crowned champions.

Once again Neil Lennon, unhappy about media comments following recent defeats to Kilmarnock and Rangers, was absent from a general press conference with Mjallby saying the manager was “having a break” before outlining his side's target to go one point better than last season, when they finished one point behind Rangers.

“We are delighted,” said the former Celtic defender.

“We are even closer to clinching the title and it is always great to get back to winning ways, especially after losing two games on the trot.

“There's six games to go and we want to win it and, sure, we want to win it on Saturday but we have a target to improve on last season's points tally.

“We achieved 92 points and we want to go at least one better so we can say there has been an improvement of the team because that is what you are striving for in management.

“Our main target is try to pick 15 points from the last six league games.”

Mjallby believes there was unfair criticism of the Parkhead side after losing the Scottish Communities League Cup final to Killie and last week's Old Firm derby at Ibrox, given that Celtic were at one stage 15 points behind Rangers — albeit having played two games less — and having gone on an 26-game unbeaten domestic run.

“I think it has been a wee bit too much,” said the Swede. “We have been on a fantastic run. You have to remember where we were in October and obviously we have turned it around with a great run and now we are only one point from clinching the title.”

The Celtic players warmed up wearing number 19 shirts, as a tribute to Aston Villa captain and former Hoops star Stiliyan Petrov, who was diagnosed with acute leukaemia on Friday.

The Parkhead management wore shirts with Petrov's name and number on the back and in the 19th minute the stadium stood, applauded and chanted the Bulgarian's name.

Mjallby said: “That was absolutely brilliant.

“It was terrible news on Friday and we all give him our best and our love.

“He's a fighter and a strong boy, I really hope he is going to beat this and I'm quite sure he will.”

St Johnstone boss Steve Lomas claimed his side were on the wrong end of “three key decisions” by referee George Salmond.

“My boys were brilliant yet again,” he said.

“I felt a lot went against us. I felt we didn't get the rub of the green.

“I don't want to criticise referees but, in our opinion, Francisco Sandaza has a blatant penalty, the second goal is a free-kick on Liam (Craig) and even the first goal came from a very soft free-kick.

“For the penalty, the ball is bouncing around, Fran nicks it across him, the defender doesn't get it and crashes into him.

“At the end of the day I am not here to witch hunt referees. They say they (decisions) even themselves up but we ain't seeing that at the minute.

“There's a lot of positives but there is a lot of disappointed boys in there because they put in so much.”

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