CELTIC 3 KILMARNOCK 1
CARRY on winning! That was the message from Celtic as they notched up their sixth successive league triumph in their best run since 2010 during Neil Lennon’s first reign at the champions.
There was a slight hiccup on this occasion as the visitors sneaked a goal against the run of play, but normal service was resumed at Parkhead this afternoon when the irrepressible Odsonne Edouard levelled before the interval and repeated the feat shortly after the break to point the team in the direction of three crucial points as they keep their eye on nine in a row.
Ryan Christie also got on the scoresheet as he took his goal tally into double figures.
To set the trend, Christie, a stand-out against Rennes during the week, fired in a dangerous left-foot drive that whistled just wide of the upright in the third minute.
CHEERS…Ryan Christie, Scott Brown and Odsonne Edouard celebrate a goal.
James Forrest was next up to have a crack at goal, but keeper Laurentiu Branescu was grateful to take the effort into his gloves in the middle of his goal.
The winger went even closer in the 16th minute with a right-foot drive that clattered a post and rebounded to safety. Forrest was on fire and only a few moments later had another effort on target that was saved at the foot of the upright by Killie’s sprawling Romanian shotstopper.
The Hoops kept up the siege on the visitors’ defence and Christie had a shot blocked before Forrest had another menacing drive saved.
There were howls of derision from the home fans in the 29th minute when Christie was booked by referee Greig Aitken who deemed he had dived after a Killie challenge.
ON FIRE…and out of luck! James Forrest just couldn’t get a goal today.
A goal just had to come – and, amazingly, it did in the 33rd minute for Killie!
After being hemmed in right from the kick-off, it was a classic sucker-punch from the visitors on the break that shredded the Hoops rearguard.
Mohamed El Makrini sent Eamonn Brophy scampering through and the striker left the exposed Fraser Forster helpless with a clipped drive.
Celtic’s response was immediate and Olivier Ntcham tried his luck with a left-foot shot from the edge of the box, but the ball hurtled off target.
As the interval edged closer, Kristoffer Ajer, up with the attack for a free-kick, thumped in a right-footer and that, too, swept wide. Moments later, Ntcham had a drive saved as the Hoops turned the screw in their attempts to get back on level terms before the turnaround.
ON THE BALL…Odsonne Edouard was a constant threat.
And the equaliser duly arrived in the 44th minute when Forrest delivered a perfect cross for French ace Edouard to rise and bullet a header away from Branescu.
No-one could argue the goal was not deserved after a pulverising performance from the homesters punctured only by the Brophy’s breakaway stunner.
Lennon’s men continued to dominate at the start of the second-half and Ntcham and Callum McGregor had efforts before Killie’s spirited resolve was broken for a second time.
In the 53rd minute, Moritz Bauer, making his first start for the club, sent in a neat pass to Edouard who bent his run perfectly into the box, took a touch and then slid an angled drive low under the diving Branescu.
And four minutes later, the champions made it 3-1 when Christie rolled in his 10th of the campaign after a stupendous save from Killie’s acrobatic No.1. Boli Bolingoli sent over an inviting ball from the left and Forrest thumped in a powerful six-yard header.
DOUBLE FIGURES…Ryan Christie claimed his 10th goal of the campaign.
It looked a goal all the way until the on-loan Juventus goalie somehow managed to defy the Celt to claw the ball away. However, the clearance dropped to the eager Christie and he knocked it into the empty net.
Forster was brought into action in the 69th minute when he made a superb save from a wicked drive from Brophy. It looked a scorer as it zipped towards the top of the net until the towering Englishman got a touch to knock it to safety.
Lennon made his first change in the 73rd minute when he sent on Jonny Hayes for Ntcham.
Bauer went off to a round of applause in the 79th minute with Hatem Abd Elhamed coming on in a like-for-like change at right-back.
Christopher Jullien took a knock before going off six minutes from the end with Tom Rogic coming on and skipper Scott Brown moving to the No.2 spot with Elhamed moving in beside Ajer in central defence.
WORKING A FLANKER…Olivier Ntcham races down the wing.
Match official Aitken amazed the home support by awarding a penalty-kick in the fading moments when Brown looked as though he had made a good solid tackle on Osman Sow to clear the ball.
Alan Power took the spot-kick, but justice was done when Forster swooped to his right to save down at his post.
Forrest was due a goal, but Dame Fortune continued to scowl in his direction and he had a late drive deflected onto the crossbar by the keeper.
Alas, it was just one of those days for the Scotland international attacker, but, at the end of another Premiership hurdle, no-one was complaining at the outcome with the 100 per cent record intact.
Now all eyes are on the League Cup quarter-final against Partick Thistle on Wednesday in Paradise.
TEAM: Forster; Bauer (sub: Elhamed 79), Ajer, Jullien (sub: Rogic 84), Bolingoli; Brown, McGregor; Forrest, Ntcham (sub: Hayes 73), Christie; Edouard.