Soccer  

Celtic 2-0 Kilmarnock: Hosts 12 clear at top of Scottish Premiership

Celtic v Kilmarnock
Jota jabbed Celtic in front just before the break

Celtic overcame a “sticky first half” and “poor choices” to beat Kilmarnock and extend their Scottish Premiership lead to 12 points over Rangers.

After a dominant half, Jota broke the deadlock for the league leaders just before the break, sliding in to meet Daizen Maeda’s low cross to score his eighth goal of the season.

And Celtic doubled their lead after the break when Kilmarnock defender Ash Taylor deflected Reo Hatate’s cross into his own goal under pressure from Kyogo Furuhashi.

Rangers – in second place – travel to face Dundee United on Sunday (16:00 GMT) with precious little margin for error.

“It was a sticky first half for us, we couldn’t find our rhythm. Credit to Kilmarnock for making it difficult but I still think we made some poor choices,” manger Ange Postecoglou said.

“Second half, we took control, played in their half and looked a lot more threatening. To be fair, we probably should have had two or three more goals.”

Indeed, Celtic had such a glut of chances towards the end of the match that one could be forgiven for forgetting how sore Kilmarnock must have felt at Jota’s opener.

Derek McInnes’ men had defended stoutly for the opening 45 minutes, limiting Celtic to one deflected shot on target, that from Jota who was stymied by Taylor’s desperate block.

Kilmarnock, in truth, were worth no more than parity at the break. Seeking their first league win at Celtic Park since October 2012, they relied on long balls directed at debutant Kyle Vassell for their attacks.

The Englishman was badly isolated, though, and Cameron Carter-Vickers was too fast and composed, routinely dispossessing the striker and setting his side off on another period of Celtic possession.

That was the theme, save for Taylor’s looping header from Liam Polworth’s cross that landed on top of Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart’s net.

Celtic benefited from the energy of Hatate, Callum McGregor and Aaron Mooy, the midfield trio afforded time to look up for passes to Maeda and Jota, the Portuguese winger switching wings to try to break Kilmarnock down.

Taylor’s own goal six minutes after the re-start was tough on the big centre-half, because if he had not made contact, Kyogo would surely have scored.

Visiting goalkeeper Sam Walker conceded two goals but had an outstanding match. He kept out an 18-yard drive from Hatate, getting down low to his right to parry, and after the break he dived high to his left to save a powerful Giorgos Giakoumakis header, aided by the woodwork.

The Greek striker smacked the crossbar a few minutes later as the visitors tired and the hosts were energised by the introduction of Giakoumakis, Liel Abada, James Forrest, Matt O’Riley and David Turnbull.

Late in the game, Forrest gave the fans who were still in the ground further excitement with two shots from eight yards, the first saved by Walker, the follow-up rebounding off the upright.

Player of the match – Reo Hatate

Reo Hatate
Hatate was relentless in the Celtic midfield, winning possession and looking to provide Jota and Maeda on the wings. His cross into the box created Celtic’s second goal

Celtic find their rhythm as Kilmarnock wilt – analysis

A list of stats would have made grim reading for Kilmarnock fans before kick-off. Celtic had won nine of their last 10 matches against their team and the hosts had secured 11 home league wins on the trot.

No disgrace, then, for McInnes to employ a containment policy. They had 21% of possession and only two off-target shots to show for their play, and the effort they spent chasing Celtic and closing down space eventually told on them.

Celtic’s enthusiasm for the task did not dim, despite being two goals up. They had willing runners late in the game, were on their toes as Kilmarnock became leaden, and were only denied a much more convincing scoreline by Walker.

McInnes and his coaching team must find a way to change the narrative when the teams meet in the League Cup.

What did they say?

Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou: “Sometimes things don’t go your way and it’s about staying disciplined. We’re a very fit team and we’ll work hard for 95 or 100 minutes and opposition teams have to match that.

“We’re comfortable where we are, we know there are still 17 games to go. We want to finish the season stronger than we started. That is our goal.”

Kilmarnock manager Derek McInnes: “The better team won, no doubt about it. I was really pleased with our first-half performance but really sickened to lose the goal on the stroke of half-time. That was harsh.

“The second goal was when we were were attacking and they break on us. From then on, we worked hard. Celtic hit the bar a couple of times and my keeper has made saves, but we did a lot right out of possession and in possession.”

What’s next?

Celtic and Kilmarnock meet again in a week’s time in the League Cup semi-final at Hampden (17:30 GMT).

Line-ups

Celtic

Formation 4-3-3

  • 1Hart
  • 2Johnston
  • 20Carter-Vickers
  • 4Starfelt
  • 25Bernabei
  • 13MooySubstituted forO’Rileyat 63′minutes
  • 42McGregor
  • 41HatateSubstituted forTurnbullat 83′minutes
  • 17Neves FilipeSubstituted forAbadaat 63′minutes
  • 8FuruhashiSubstituted forGiakoumakisat 63′minutes
  • 38MaedaSubstituted forForrestat 83′minutes

Substitutes

  • 6Jenz
  • 7Giakoumakis
  • 11Abada
  • 14Turnbull
  • 18Kobayashi
  • 29Bain
  • 33O’Riley
  • 49Forrest
  • 88Juranovic

Kilmarnock

Formation 5-3-2

  • 20Walker
  • 2Mayo
  • 19Wright
  • 5Taylor
  • 6Stokes
  • 33Chrisene
  • 4PowerSubstituted forLyonsat 64′minutes
  • 31PolworthSubstituted forMurrayat 75′minutes
  • 7McKenzieSubstituted forMcInroyat 85′minutes
  • 16RobinsonSubstituted forArmstrongat 64′minutes
  • 23VassellSubstituted forDoidgeat 64′minutes

Substitutes

  • 1Hemming
  • 8Alston
  • 11Armstrong
  • 14Sanders
  • 15Murray
  • 17Lyons
  • 18Waters
  • 21McInroy
  • 26Doidge

Referee:
Nick Walsh

Attendance:
58,612

Live Text

Player of the match

Carter-VickersCameron Carter-Vickers

Celtic

  1. Squad number20Player nameCarter-Vickers

  2. Squad number41Player nameHatate

  3. Squad number38Player nameMaeda

  4. Squad number2Player nameJohnston

  5. Squad number8Player nameFuruhashi

  6. Squad number42Player nameMcGregor

  7. Squad number17Player nameJota

  8. Squad number7Player nameGiakoumakis

  9. Squad number13Player nameMooy

  10. Squad number11Player nameAbada

  11. Squad number49Player nameForrest

  12. Squad number4Player nameStarfelt

  13. Squad number33Player nameO’Riley

  14. Squad number14Player nameTurnbull

  15. Squad number25Player nameBernabei

  16. Squad number1Player nameHart

Kilmarnock

  1. Squad number20Player nameWalker

  2. Squad number2Player nameMayo

  3. Squad number6Player nameStokes

  4. Squad number23Player nameVassell

  5. Squad number19Player nameWright

  6. Squad number7Player nameMcKenzie

  7. Squad number16Player nameRobinson

  8. Squad number31Player namePolworth

  9. Squad number4Player namePower

  10. Squad number33Player nameChrisene

  11. Squad number5Player nameTaylor

  12. Squad number21Player nameMcInroy

  13. Squad number11Player nameArmstrong

  14. Squad number15Player nameMurray

  15. Squad number17Player nameLyons

  16. Squad number26Player nameDoidge