CELTIC manager Ronny Deila decried his side for being “sloppy” after they conceded an 88th-minute penalty to be held to a 2-2 draw at Rugby Park by a previously pointless Kilmarnock.
A third-minute Leigh Griffiths strike seemed to put the Scottish champions on their way to a third straight victory, only for Killie’s Josh Magennis to equalise just before the interval.
A long-range screamer by Nir Bitton then appeared to put Celtic back in charge. In an encounter that witnessed missed opportunities at both ends, though, a dinked spot-kick from Karl Higginbotham following a clumsy challenge by Emilio Izaguirre gave Kilmarnock a share of the spoils.
That concluded a testing tussle for Celtic in a week the challenge faced by the Scottish champions on the domestic scene has been the subject of fevered debate following the club’s assistant John Collins stating that players of Scottish teams weren’t clever enough or quick thinking enough to prepare them for what they confronted in Europe.
Malmo manager Age Hareide was in the stand to assess his opponents in next week’s Champions League play-off, and Deila had to concede that Celtic had shown anything but their best face in conceding league goals for the first time since April. “We were sloppy in the defence just as we were against Partick Thistle in the last game in the second half [of the 2-0 win],” said the Norwegian on a night his team were replaced at the top of the Premiership by Hearts. “We continued doing that here and then you get punished in the end. Kilmarnock got four or five chances against us and that is more than any of the other teams have had against us in 10 games.
“We deserve to get punished when we don’t score goals as we are so sloppy in the defence. We have been good in the defence for a long time, so, hopefully, this is a one-off game and we get back on track on Saturday. We should have scored more. It’s easy to talk about defending, but we should have scored more also. Everything does start with good defensive, though. That’s why we have had so many good results this year and we need to get back on track.”
Higginbotham secured Kilmarnock their first point with a nerveless dink from the penalty spot which demonstrated an intelligence that could be considered at odds with Collins’ comments.
The English attacker was in no doubt that the Celtic no.2’s words will be used for motivation by other sides as he agreed that the night demonstrated Celtic were not untouchable.
“You’ve seen what their coaching staff have come out with this week,” he said. “When you read stuff like that it just gives you that extra ten per cent you need to go and run against them. Every team will now be looking at those comments and putting in a real shift to show that we are good enough to go against Celtic. They have the budget and resources and are going to run away with the league year in, year out. But, as long as we keep fighting against them, comments like that will only spur teams on.”