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Champions Celtic wrap up campaign with Hart-warming win over battling St Mirren

Celtic fans paid tribute to Joe Hart on trophy day (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Celtic fans paid tribute to Joe Hart on trophy day (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Luis Palma scored a late winner as champions Celtic twice came from behind to round off another successful cinch Premiership campaign with a 3-2 victory over St Mirren on trophy day at Parkhead.

St Mirren captain Mark O’Hara twice gave the visitors the lead but goals from Matt O’Riley and Kyogo Furuhashi had Celtic level at the break.

The second half was a quieter affair but Palma converted Anthony Ralston’s cross from close range in the 86th minute to give the home fans more reason to cheer ahead of the presentation of the silverware.

The goal prompted Brendan Rodgers to take off Joe Hart and set up the chance for the supporters to acclaim the goalkeeper in the final league match of his career.

The 37-year-old will aim to lift the seventh trophy of his three-year spell in Glasgow when Celtic take on Rangers in the Scottish Gas Scottish Cup final.

With next Saturday’s Hampden clash in mind, Rodgers made six changes following the title-clinching victory at Kilmarnock and one of the players coming in, Stephen Welsh, came close with an early header.

Celtic v St Mirren – cinch Premiership – Celtic Park
Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart gestures to the fans after being substituted during the cinch Premiership match at Celtic Park, Glasgow. Picture date: Saturday May 18, 2024.

But St Mirren had cause to celebrate the season too after qualifying for Europe for the first time in 37 years and they took a seventh-minute lead when O’Hara fired home from 12 yards after the ball ultimately fell for him following a long throw-in.

O’Riley came close with a curling effort before firing home his 19th goal of the season after following in his own headed pass into Furuhashi in the 21st minute.

Saints were back in front five minutes later. Welsh nudged over Toyosi Olusanya after a long ball had bounced over the defender’s head and referee Matthew MacDermid pointed to the spot. O’Hara lifted the ball over Hart’s dive.

Celtic v St Mirren – cinch Premiership – Celtic Park
Mark O’Hara restored St Mirren’s lead with this spot-kick (PA)

The Saints captain soon headed against the post, although MacDermid blew for a foul against one of his team-mates.

Celtic were level again in the 37th minute. Reo Hatate made strides down the right wing and delivered a low cross for Furuhashi to squeeze a finish inside the near post.

The home side had good chances to take the lead before the break but were off target with Palma’s diving header and Hatate’s volley.

As fans chanted Hart’s name, the 75-times capped England goalkeeper acknowledged the crowd before sprinting off the park, possibly when he realised he was in danger of getting over-emotional.

Celtic v St Mirren – cinch Premiership – Celtic Park
Celtic’s Luis Palma (right) celebrates his late winner (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The former Manchester City player was greeted with a huge tribute banner in the standing section when he reappeared for the second half and stood there for a moment taking in the acclaim.

There was less action of note after the break but the game remained finely balanced, with St Mirren continuing to carry a threat.

Zach Hemming saved from from Furuhashi from an early chance and Celtic lost Welsh to injury, the defender walking off with his arm in a sling.

If anything, the Buddies looked the likelier team to grab a late winner until Palma gratefully received Ralston’s perfect cross to kick-start the party.