hit a hat-trick as crushed St Johnstone in a stunning start to their bid to make it nine titles in a row.

The league flag was raised before kick-off and Mikey Johnston kept the celebrations going with a fine finish.

Christie added a double before the break, his first a beauty and his second thanks to a Zander Clark error.

He made it 4-0 with a cracking strike before Olivier Ntcham, Odsonne Edouard and added goals.

The result ensures sit top of the table on day one and is a clear sign of intent from Neil Lennon’s side.

St Johnstone, meanwhile, were miles off the pace as their miserable start to the season continues.

High-class way too much for Saints

Given their awful League Cup campaign, with losses to Montrose and Forfar, the last place in Scotland that St Johnstone would have wanted to come on opening day was . The place was electrified before a ball was kicked, the title flag by Liz McNeill and Sadie Chalmers, widows of the great and lamented Billy and Stevie.

Mikey Johnston scores

If those cup defeats were painful for Tommy Wright then this only added to the misery. were a blur of movement and imagination and goal threat from the start. When Christie wasn’t causing them bother it was Johnston. When it wasn’t Johnston it was or Edouard or, later still, Griffths. It was a high-class victory.

There was a debut for new right-back Hatem Abd Elhamed and he was impressive, too, before he limped off early in the second half. By then, it had become a rout. The only saving grace for the visitors was that the three they had conceded hadn’t become five or six. That pain would come later. ’s speed of thought and hunger for goals was way too much for the Saints to cope with.

The champions were ahead after nine minutes when Christie’s cross-field ball was gathered by Johnston, the winger then turning his unfortunate marker, Wallace Duffy, outside, inside and then outside again before slamming his shot past Clark.

’s goals total in the league was only 77 last season, a sizeable fall from their average over the course of their first seven titles in their run of eight. Johnston only played in 36% of those games. Christie played in only 60%. Those two alone should ensure their ruthlessness in front of goal rockets skywards. Griffiths scored only twice in the last league campaign. In a better place now with his health, he’s already halfway towards matching what he did a season ago.

Ryan Christie goal

Christie once again hammered home the point about being a far different attacking proposition when taking Forrest’s pass on the right-hand side of the D and then smashing an unstoppable shot high past Clark. A peach to go with the pearler he got against Nomme Kalju in .

His second, and ’s third, came just before the half-hour when Christie drilled a shot straight at Clark only for the keeper to let it go by him and into his net.

They could have had more before the break, Forrest (twice) and Edouard all creating trouble for Saints. Just when you thought that the visitors might be spared any more punishment, Christie popped up again. St Johnstone once again gave him space outside the box, Christie once again measured his shot and this outstanding footballer once again lashed a left-footer past Clark via the underside of his crossbar for his hat-trick.

The thing about it was that it looked effortless. It looked like the type of goal he might fire home in training. It was his sixth in a matter of weeks. Already he’s almost halfway towards his goals total from all of last season.

Leigh Griffiths celebrates

More goals followed, Edouard putting Ntcham away just seconds after the Frenchman had come on for the serenaded Christie. Ntcham, with his first touch, thumped home the fifth.

St Johnstone needed their bus to appear at the side of the pitch to take them away at that point. What they got was Griffiths coming on to the pitch and putting Edouard away for the sixth, the striker going around Clark before scoring. Then, Griffiths rifled in a goal of his own. A seventh and a gorgeous strike on a day of gorgeous strikes. A fitting end to a performance that started really well and only got better after that.

Man of the match

showed his excellence last season, but he looks to have upped it in a very significant way. Christie is a happy amalgam of Callum McGregor and Stuart Armstrong – all the high energy and passing range of the former and all the cleverness and goal threat of the latter, at his 2016-17 season best.

This was a day when every player did their stuff, but Christie’s hat-trick stood out. His strikes for his first and third goals were as sweet as you’ll find. Not just that, his iuence was constant. Mikey Johnston, Christie and are going to cause some amount of mayhem on this evidence.

Line-ups

  • 29Bain
  • 33ElhamedSubstituted forRalstonat 51′minutes
  • 6Bitton
  • 35Ajer
  • 23Bolingoli-Mbombo
  • 8Brown
  • 42McGregor
  • 49Forrest
  • 17ChristieSubstituted forNtchamat 71′minutes
  • 19JohnstonSubstituted forGriffithsat 76′minutes
  • 22Edouard

Substitutes

  • 1Gordon
  • 9Griffiths
  • 11Sinclair
  • 15Hayes
  • 16Morgan
  • 21Ntcham
  • 56Ralston

St Johnstone

  • 1Clark
  • 19FosterBooked at 74mins
  • 2Duffy
  • 5Vihmann
  • 15Kerr
  • 3Tanser
  • 8DavidsonBooked at 78mins
  • 26Craig
  • 4CallachanSubstituted forMcCannat 45′minutes
  • 17O’Halloran
  • 33KennedyBooked at 27minsSubstituted forHendryat 65′minutes

Substitutes

  • 6Anderson
  • 11Swanson
  • 12Parish
  • 18McCann
  • 20McClean
  • 22Hendry
  • 50Northcott
Referee:
Kevin Clancy
Attendance:
58,877

Match Stats

Home TeamAway TeamSt Johnstone
Possession
Home76%
Away24%
Shots
Home24
Away2
Shots on Target
Home11
Away0
Corners
Home8
Away0
Fouls
Home10
Away10

Live Text

Match ends, 7, St. Johnstone 0.

Full Time

Second Half ends, 7, St. Johnstone 0.

Wallace Duffy (St. Johnstone) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Attempt missed. Kristoffer Ajer () header from very close range is close, but misses to the left following a corner.

Corner, . Conceded by Jason Kerr.

Goal!

Goal! 7, St. Johnstone 0. () left footed shot from outside the box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Olivier Ntcham.

Corner, . Conceded by Jason Kerr.

Foul by Olivier Ntcham ().

Alistair McCann (St. Johnstone) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Scott Tanser (St. Johnstone) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Goal!

Goal! 6, St. Johnstone 0. Odsonne Edouard () right footed shot from the centre of the box to the centre of the goal. Assisted by .

Attempt saved. () left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal.

Booking

Murray Davidson (St. Johnstone) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Scott Brown () wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Murray Davidson (St. Johnstone).

Corner, . Conceded by Alistair McCann.

Booking

Richard Foster (St. Johnstone) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo () wins a free kick on the right wing.

Foul by Richard Foster (St. Johnstone).

Goal!

Goal! 5, St. Johnstone 0. Olivier Ntcham () left footed shot from the left side of the box to the centre of the goal. Assisted by Odsonne Edouard.

Michael Johnston () wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Richard Foster (St. Johnstone).

Goal!

Goal! 4, St. Johnstone 0. () right footed shot from outside the box to the top right corner. Assisted by Michael Johnston.

Substitution

Substitution, St. Johnstone. Callum Hendry replaces Matthew Kennedy.

Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo () wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Richard Foster (St. Johnstone).

Corner, . Conceded by Richard Foster.

Attempt missed. Liam Craig (St. Johnstone) left footed shot from outside the box is too high.

Foul by Kristoffer Ajer ().

Murray Davidson (St. Johnstone) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Corner, . Conceded by Scott Tanser.

Attempt blocked. Anthony Ralston () right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked.

Callum McGregor () wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Michael O’Halloran (St. Johnstone).

Substitution

Substitution, . Anthony Ralston replaces Hatem Elhamed because of an injury.

Foul by Kristoffer Ajer ().

goal

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