Celtic partake in a goalframe challenge as Kilmarnock fortunate to escape with 2-0 defeat

Meet 2023, same as 2022 for Scottish teams pitching up to Celtic Park. They come, they defend, they suffer defeat, usually with Ange Postecoglou’s men graciously sparing them a bleaching through converting only a fraction of their chances.

All such customary elements were present and correct as Celtic extended their lead at the top of the cinch Premiership to 12 points with a 2-0 victory over Kilmarnock - a day ahead of Rangers facing Dundee United at Tannadice. The only break from the norm was in the encounter being framed as a dress rehearsal for next week’s Viaplay League Cup semi-final between the teams next Saturday.

The 5-4-1 formation that Kilmarnock Derek McInnes deployed to stifle Celtic - the home team’s early stodginess helping this prove an effective enough ploy for almost a full half - no doubt will be the blueprint for his gameplan in the national stadium. McInnes stated afterwards that the approach had served its purpose in as much as “it was important we didn’t take a sore one” ahead of the semi-final. Yet, the slaps inevitably came. As, surely, they will come for the Ayrshire men in a week’s time.

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Celtic’s latest outing allowed them to extend their unbeaten domestic run to 15 matches. The win means their 100 per cent home record in the cinch Premiership now covers 10 games. The majority of these have proved more engaging than what the home denizens were treated to as their team toiled to produce penetration against opponents Postecoglou described as “well structured”. He also acknowledged his own men’s shortcomings ahead of Jota plundering his eighth goal of the season just on the stroke of the interval.

Jota scores Celtic's opener in the victory over Kilmarnock at Celtic Park. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)Jota scores Celtic's opener in the victory over Kilmarnock at Celtic Park. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
Jota scores Celtic's opener in the victory over Kilmarnock at Celtic Park. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

“It was a bit sticky, we didn’t really get in the game, our flow. We didn’t make some good choices in the front third. Our decision-making wasn’t great. The boys were disappointed but we got a really good goal, stuff we work on, and then second half I thought we were really good. We dominated and played in the areas we wanted.”

The opener was the turning point, then. A bish, bash, bosh in which the flowing Celtic re-emerged, with Callum McGregor sending Daizen Maeda scurrying down the right before he flipped over a cross that Jota darted in at the front post to glance into the net.

Kilmarnock defender Ash Taylor was the luckless visiting player that required to take the credit - if that’s the word - for the clincher second, only seven minutes into the second period. Doing the right thing in pressurising Kyogo Furuhashi as he sought to get on the end of a diagonal from deep by Reo Hatate, the big defender’s final touch only succeeded in diverting the ball beyond keeper Sam Walker.

A chancefest last 15 minutes then ensued as Celtic’s substitutes appeared to be involved in some sort of bizarre goalframe challenge. Giorgos Giakoumakis had a header and thumping drive that rattled the crossbar, while James Forrest and Matt O’Riley efforts rebound from either post in the space of seconds. Kilmarnock, with Walker also denying the Scotland winger and the Greek striker, might not be so fortunate in part two of the clubs’ double header.



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