Celtic in the mood to better Rangers with thirst-quenching display as Jota makes poignant celebration
This 5-0 win over a ragged Kilmarnock side edges them ahead of Rangers again at the top on goal difference. Anything they can do, we can do better was the mantra at Rugby Park.
The visitors bettered their rivals’ 4-0 win over St Johnstone the previous day and might indeed have done so by more in the final analysis. As well as scoring the opening, Kyogo Furuhashi hit the bar with a header.
Jota added another stunning strike to his expanding portfolio after he found the top corner after letting fly from 30 yards. He later dedicated the goal to his Benfica mentor Fernando Chalana. The former Portugal international died at the age of 65 last week. Jota kissed a wrist band with Chalana’s name on it and pointed to the heavens.
The Killie defence had more cracks in it than a dried-up river bed but four of Celtic’s five goals were still of the watch again and again variety. The parched, brown fields of Ayrshire were a good metaphor for a home team whose hopes had evaporated long before the final whistle. Kilmarnock’s own patch of turf is of course synthetic. Celtic made a mockery of the advantage it’s meant to hand the home side.
There were water breaks but little relief otherwise for Kilmarnock in front of watching Scottish Cup-winning manager Bobby Williamson, who took part in an entertainingly clipped interview on the park during the interval. The Killie cheerleaders also did their best to cheer up the locals at half-time but it was a forlorn effort.
Already three goals down, the game was up for Kilmarnock. When centre-halves are scoring acrobatic goals against you it’s probably allowable to concede it’s not going to be your day.
Moritz Jenz turned to hook in Celtic’s third over his shoulder to leave the hosts very much down and out. Substitute Carl Starfelt, who came on for Jenz after 55 minutes, scored his first goal for the club when he forced the ball into the net at the second attempt after 75 minutes. Kilmarnock might have hoped they had stemmed the tide. No such luck.
Giorgos Giakoumakis got in on the act with nine minutes left when he emulated Jenz with an overhead kick after a cross from the right from fellow substitute Liel Abada.
Kilmarnock manager Derek McInnes acknowledged the quality of some of Celtic’s play and goals. However, he still felt such a margin of defeat was unacceptable. He said he was “embarrassed” by the loss of five goals at home.
“I know we’ll be better and we’re capable of getting results in this league, but there is that kind of feeling that our season starts now,” he said.
“It still shouldn’t be 5-0, even though we’re not ready to take on a Celtic. That’s what I’m disappointed with.”
The Rugby Park side have endured a torrid start to their return to the top flight although they can console themselves they won’t have to play either half of the Old Firm in the league again until January, when they will once more face Celtic and Rangers in successive weeks. Currently second bottom of the table, McInnes will hope to have improved his side’s position before then.
Kilmarnock play bottom of the table Ross County next as they seek to kick-start their campaign but that tough trip to the Highlands will hardly be welcomed either.
They were their own worst enemies here as slackness helped Celtic open up a commanding first-half lead. Kyogo poked home the opener after seven minutes and a stunning strike from Jota made it seem a long, long way back for the home side in extremely muggy conditions. The slim prospect of a comeback was quashed when Jenz scored for the second time in successive weeks with a hooked finish more in keeping with a centre forward than centre half.
Any game-plan devised by McInnes had to be ripped up after the initial stages which saw Celtic take such an early lead. The Killie back four was too easily opened up but credit has to be given to man-of-the-match Greg Taylor, whose ball in behind the hosts’ defence set Maeda – who held his run to avoid being flagged offside – on his way.
He then crossed for his compatriot Kyogo to stab home off a post. It was all very straightforward but nonetheless devastating in its simplicity of execution. All Kilmarnock could offer in response was a tame effort into the hands of Joe Hart from Kyle Lafferty after he had been set up by strike partner Oli Shaw. Fraser Murray saw a shot skip past the far post.
Celtic were finding great joy down Kilmarnock’s left with Jota and Josip Juranovic combining well. McInnes’ problems were exacerbated when left back Jeriel Dorsett limped off five minutes before half time with suspect ligament damage to be replaced by Calum Waters.
Killie were two down and creaking badly. There was little they could have done about Jota’s strike except close him down with more alacrity than they managed. Maeda was again credited with an assist but it was an assist in the loosest sense of the word.
The Japanese brought down and then laid the ball off for Jota, who took a touch before launching a sensational strike towards Walker’s top right hand corner from fully 30 yards. Jenz hooked in number three on the stroke of half-time after Kilmarnock failed to clear a corner.
It wasn’t quite Manchester United levels of capitulation, but it came close. If Maeda had controlled Jota’s cross from the right he would have been in with a chance of scoring a fourth before half-time. Jota, too, had an excellent chance but opted to shoot rather than square the ball and Walker pulled off a good save.
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