Celtic 0 - 2 Kilmarnock: Visitors make history with first Parkhead win in 57 years
THESE are strange and engaging days indeed. And the Halley’s Comet of a victory for Kilmarnock at Celtic Park deserves to be delivered from a smothering by discussions over Celtic’s state of mind and body post-Barcelona.
Kilmarnock: Sheridan 43; Kelly 62
The Ayrshire side’s manger Kenny Shiels rightly demands that of his club’s first victory in the east end of Glasgow in 57 years and 69 attempts, a win that left him talking about his “pride” in providing a victory on a ground that “two generations” of Kilmarnock supporters had not experienced.
He has earned that right because yesterday, for all its historical significance, was no freak. It was, instead, the third time in a year that his team had caused Celtic consternation. And the fact Liam Kelly netted the penalty that put his team on course for the 2-0 success infused the afternoon with a poignancy Shiels understood and versed eloquently. In March, Kelly’s father Jack collapsed and died of heart failure in Hampden at the final whistle as Kilmarnock beat Celtic to lift the League Cup for the first time.
“The person I am happiest for is Liam Kelly, because we didn’t get a chance to truly celebrate beating the best team in Scotland in March in a cup final,” the Kilmarnock manager said. “I’d like to think we have got a chance now to celebrate without feeling guilty about it. That is a monkey off my back certainly and for the players. I said that to the players in the dressing room – please enjoy yourself tonight because you have earned that. For Liam and his family tonight we are very, very happy. “
Shiels claimed his side’s ability to perform against Celtic – who they also were 3-0 up on a year ago at Rugby Park before drawing 3-3 – and Rangers, with two wins over the Ibrox team, can be put down to the fact that they can show their best face when ranged against teams who come out and play football against them. The reality is that Celtic rarely did that yesterday, such was their rank awfulness.
Much of the opening half-hour was a vast expanse of nothingness. In his pre-match chatter, Shiels wasn’t for having an excuses about Celtic suffering a post-Barcelona fatigue – in his own inimitable fashion, of course. The Irishman explaining that lactose build-ups in the muscles dissipate within 48 hours. Reflecting on the win earned by a compact, controlled display rather than any great pzazz, but in which he had three teenagers Mark O’Hara, a 16-year-old full debutant, Rory McKenzie, and Rory McKeown excelling, Shiels also conceded Celtic might be suffering an “emotional imbalance in their central nervous system” after putting so much emotion into their valiant showing in the Nou Camp on Tuesday.
His home counterpart Neil Lennon lamented more that his team’s imbalance might have been created by his recasting ot it, with Miku, Beram Kayal, James Forrest, Kris Commons and Adam Matthews brought in from the starting XI for the defeat in Spain. Only Forrest, who set up Gary Hooper and Tony Watt for second-half openings they squandered, offered anything.
“I’m confused,” he said. “Giving as flat a performance as flat as that particularly after freshening the team up. It’s my fault, I pick the team. I’m not blaming the players for that. I thought we had a strong team out that looked good on paper. There was no fluidity to us, we were too passive, there was no intensity to our play and we got what we deserved without Kilmarnock really having to do that much.
“The first goal was a shambles and the second goal was poor defending.
“Those that came in have to do better. There are international players, playing very well but there was a malaise about the team that I did not like at all. It is unacceptable and for myself. It’s a dose of reality, back down to earth with a bump. They’ve had a lot of nice things said about them and we warned them not to take all that in. If ever we knew the unpredictable nature of football it’s today. I’m very disappointed, it’s the poorest we’ve played under my tenure and I’ll be looking for a reaction on Tuesday [in the League Cup quarter-final at home to St Johnstone].
Kilmarnock’s 43rd-minute opener was a three-handed blunder from Celtic’s perspective. Matthews overhit a pass back to last man Efe Ambrose. He casually attempted to flick it past Cillian Sheridan and only succeeded in hitting it against the striker, allowing him to chase it down with no-one between him and Fraser Forster. Initially, the keeper appeared to sprint forward to meet the ball, then back-pedalled and was duly rounded by the Irishman who rolled the ball into an empty net.
“Barcelona must be shite,” came the chorus from the thousand or so visiting fans as they revelled in their unexpected lead. It became their ditty of the day – and night, down Ayrshire way no doubt –
after McKenzie jinked past Emilio Izaguirre just after the hour and then was felled by the Honduran. It was left to Kelly to ram home a penalty before dropping to his knees and pointing to the sky. The gesture needed no explanation.