Hail, hail the history men. Celtic’s dominance has now reached the stage where we must dip as far back as the early part of the last century to relate tales of corresponding greatness.
They have now made it to 62 domestic games unbeaten, equalling Willie Maley’s side’s achievements of 1915-17. However, there was little sense of celebration. Remarkably, Kilmarnock, with just one win here since 1955 and who actually ended Celtic’s run in 1917, contemplated pulling off a historic feat of their own with avictory.
They didn’t quite do it, unlike 100 years ago, but Steve Clarke’s side took a point as well as tremendous satisfaction from the afternoon.
It certainly didn’t feel as if Celtic were on the brink of something special as they struggled in vain to secure a winner. Grumbles filled a stadium that was by then half-full. Many underwhelmed fans had decided to get their evening under way early.
“Congratulations to Brendan Rodgers and his Invincibles in equalling another piece of history,” interjected the Tannoy announcer moments after full-time. However, it was the Kilmarnock fans who were heard more loudly applauding their heroes after a second point gained in Glasgow in a matter of days.
Jordan Jones’ superbly worked goal on the hour mark meant Killie killed the atmosphere in the vast majority of the stadium. If not exactly party poopers, the Ayrshire side ensured there was little triumphalism from the Celtic fans at the end. Celtic have now failed to win three of their six home league games – they drew only four games in the entire last league campaign.
Leigh Griffiths’ 43rd minute goal suggested Celtic were on course to equal a century-old record in style, with a win. Instead the leaders let another two points slip, with Jones, impressive throughout, showing admirable persistence combined with talent to equalise in the 60th minute.
The fact remains in black and white – Celtic are unbeaten in 62 domestic games. Statues outside the ground recognise men who have brought glory to the club, and Brendan Rodgers would still defer to them. Still, this latest feat, even given the circumstances yesterday, deserves to be recognised.
“The players deserve all the credit,” said Rodgers, who had been reluctant to talk about the potential achievement before the game. “Whatever happens in their careers here their names go into the record books.”
They have the chance to set their own marker of excellence on Saturday against St Johnstone. First up, however, is a Champions League clash against Bayern Munich. Little here suggested they might spring a surprise against the Germans but then Rodgers made wholesale changes, as he tends to do before such appointments.
He will regret not resting Partrick Roberts, who sustained a hamstring injury in the first-half and could now be out for several weeks.
Teenager Michael Johnston made his full first-team debut and he was one of their bright spots before being replaced by Moussa Dembele. His quick feet and touch were a feature of the first-half. It is heartening to know that an 18-year-old played his part on a historic afternoon.
Clarke is experienced enough to at least know how to make Kilmarnock hard to beat. Celtic struggled to break down visitors who had Kilmarnock arrived at Celtic Park in confident mood after Wednesday’s last-gasp draw with Rangers.
Patience was the key that night, as it was here. They lost a goal at one of the worst times to do so – just before half-time. But Kilmarnock are becoming masters of the counter attack under Clarke.
It was of those games where fans tried to make their own entertainment. It was the first home game since Celtic’s Fifa award for best fans’ moment. The Green Brigade were not going to let the absence of on-field excitement get in the way of revelling in this official commendation – not that they seek such establishment approval.
They continued to sing throughout a first half that was one-way traffic. There was some respite for Killie when Roberts was forced off with a hamstring injury after just half an hour. The winger had been tormenting the visitors’ left back Stuart Findlay, a former Celtic player, at one stage nutmegging him on the way to setting up another chance.
But this, like several others, was not taken. Celtic had only Griffiths’ goal, good though it was, to show for their efforts in the end. He managed to get a toe to Eboue Kousassi’s dinked ball over the defence from deep midfield and before goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald could intervene.
But it was not the best goal of the afternoon. That belonged to Jones, who showed great desire to fetch the ball after his own right-foot shot had bashed back off the base of Craig Gordon’s right hand post. The Killie player retrieved the rebound, exchanged passes with Rory McKenzie on the edge of the box, and then tucked the ball neatly beyond Gordon with his left foot.