Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers hailed his team’s defensive display after a seventh consecutive domestic clean sheet proved crucial at Kilmarnock.
Stuart Armstrong netted the only goal 90 seconds before the break at Rugby Park as Celtic went 13 points clear in the Ladbrokes Premiership.
Kilmarnock goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald made decent stops from Callum McGregor and Patrick Roberts early in the second half to keep Lee Clark’s team in it and Celtic needed to stand firm as the hosts pushed forward without carving a clear chance.
Rodgers, who had Dedryck Boyata making his first appearance for seven months and midfielder McGregor in his second-half back four, said: “You can see the solidity of the team, how we have been building that defensive philosophy.
“With the two-week break, having hardly had any of the players, changing around the team, playing on astroturf, it was a brilliant result.
“Nights like this are very, very important, coming away when it’s absolutely freezing. We had to dig in towards the end. It’s a great feeling to win after not being together for two weeks.”
Rodgers added: “First half we played very well, made a couple of mistakes in build-up play but sometimes that happens when you are building the game.
“But in the main we were slick, our movement was good, good patience, got in between and created chances. We looked really exciting going forward and scored a goal just before half-time, it was a very good finish.
“Give Kilmarnock credit, they came out and threw everything at it. Lee’s team did him proud in the second half. We didn’t have as many sequences of passing and it led to us playing a little bit on the counter-attack. We had chances to finish the game and just didn’t quite get the final pass.”
Celtic were without Leigh Griffiths, who is a doubt for the Champions League visit of Barcelona on Wednesday.
“We will see how he goes in the coming few days,” Rodgers said. “He came back from Scotland and had tightness in his hamstring.”
Clark was proud of his players’ disciplined and spirited performance.
“I’m disappointed for the players,” he said. “The game plan worked defensively.
“We stayed in the game and second half we grew into it as an attacking team. We were the team on the front foot and it was Celtic who were hitting us on the counter-attack.
“The players’ efforts and quality at times deserved more but sometimes we lacked a little bit of quality in the final third, which is the hardest part, picking out the final pass. But I couldn’t ask for any more from the players. They were terrific.”