St Johnstone 2-4 Celtic: Leigh Griffiths denies diving

Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths said his booking was "very harsh" as he denied diving to try to win a penalty in the champions' 4-2 win at St Johnstone.

Griffiths scored his sixth goal of the season before being booked by referee Craig Thomson for going down after a challenge from Saints' Richard Foster.

"It wasn't a dive, I felt contact," Griffiths told BBC Radio Scotland.

"Craig has reffed a lot of our games and said 'I have never seen you dive' and I said 'Why have you booked me?'"

Manager Brendan Rodgers defended Griffiths but said he respected Thomson's decision.

"I haven't seen it again yet but I spoke to Leigh and he said he felt there was contact," Rodgers said.

"He is not a player I have seen dive in training or anything like that. But the referee has given a yellow card and we respect that."

Despite his frustration at the booking, Griffiths - celebrating his 26th birthday on Saturday - was enthused by Celtic's ruthless first-half dismantling of Saints, with Scott Sinclair and James Forrest adding to his opening strike.

"The first 45 minutes was the same as on Wednesday," he added, referring to Celtic's 3-0 interval lead against Hapoel Beer Sheva in their Champions League play-off first leg, before they eventually won 5-2.

Leigh Griffiths goes down in the St Johnstone box, but was booked for diving
Griffiths was booked for simulation after going down in the St Johnstone box

"We started really well, we got the goals and for long periods we bullied them. If we keep playing like that, we will blow teams away."

As in midweek though Celtic conceded two swift goals, this time in the final seven minutes, before going on to reassert their authority with a fourth goal from substitute Ryan Christie in injury time.

"It was a brilliant team performance," Rodgers told BBC Scotland. "The attitude and energy, especially in the first half and the way we managed the game, was superb.

"We scored three goals and we could have had a few more. You always expect a bit of fight and pressure to come on and in the main we controlled it well.

"We gave away a soft penalty, which was a penalty - we shouldn't be so rash in the box, and young Liam has to learn from that. This is senior football, and you have to be cute.

"And then we conceded a soft goal when we were down to 10 men [with Henderson off the pitch getting treatment]. Apart from that I have got no criticism.

"We kept going right to the end and scored a fourth goal, so to play to that level for the majority of the game is very pleasing. It was a joy to watch at times."

Celtic 'will travel with great confidence'

Rodgers expects right-back Mikael Lustig, who missed the St Johnstone game with an ankle knock picked up in midweek, to be fit for Tuesday's return leg in Israel, a game Celtic will approach in buoyant mood.

"This puts us in an even better position than before the game," Rodgers added.

"We know we need to sharpen our teeth a bit in those defensive moments, but we have had two tough away games in the league and got six points, so the momentum is very much with the team.

"We still have improvements to make but we will travel there with great confidence. But we have to respect the fact they are a good side and we still have work to do."

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