CELTIC were singing and winning in the rain with an entertaining and well-deserved victory over Kilmarnock at a drenched Parkhead this afternoon.

Reo Hatate, Luis Palma and Greg Taylor were the marksmen as the champions eased seven points clear of St Mirren and 10 ahead of the Ibrox outfit who meet in Paisley at noon tomorrow.

As well as aiding the Hoops’ bid for twelfth title in 13 years, Brendan Rodgers’ side exacted revenge for their Viaplay League Cup exit against the Ayrshire opponents in August.

Kyogo Furuhashi had the ball in the net in the fifth minute after a customary crisp finish following a neat combination between Callum McGregor and Matt O’Riley presented the opportunity on the edge of the box.

The Japanese ace whipped a low right-foot drive wide of the diving Will Dennis, but the celebrations were cut short after VAR intervened to show the Hoops ace was just offside.

HAIL, HAIL THE HAPPY HONDURAN…Luis Palma celebrates his stunning strike for Celtic’s second goal.

Four minutes later, O’Riley swung in a right-wing corner-kick and Liam Scales powered in a header, but the Killie keeper was swift to react to grab the ball at his left-hand post.

Hard-working Hatate opened the scoring in the 22nd minute with a breathtaking piece of artistry and devasting finish.

The midfielder accepted a pass from McGregor 25 yards out and cheekily nutmegged Killie defender David Watson before taking off in the direction of the opposition’s goal.

Hatate surged away from another challenge into a superb shooting position before firing a low and perfectly-placed right-foot effort past the plunging Dennis to his right.

In the countdown to the match, CQN asked the Japanese ace to stand and deliver after a string of less-than-impressive performances. His answer was emphatic, we are delighted to report!

The Hoops laid siege to Dennis’ goal with Alistair Johnston having a right-foot shot blocked, Palma seeing a low shot well held and then Hatate trying an audacious flick which was repelled by the alert Dennis.

NUMBER ONE…Reo Hatate sends a low drive wide of Will Deniis to open the scoring.

However, there was nothing the on-loan Bournemouth netmider could do when Palma sent a raging 25-yarder high past him into the top right-hand corner of the net to double the Hoops’ advantage in the 33rd minute.

The Honduran played a one-two with Hatate, accepted the return, had a quick glimpse up and then unleashed an unstoppable shot with the Killie No.1 helpless.

At the start of the second-half, the champions maintained a high tempo and the visitors’ were experiencing great difficulty in attempting to get the ball out of their half.

O’Riley and Hatate combined outside the box to present the Londoner with a shooting chance, but his whiplash drive was blocked and cleared.

In the 59th minute, VAR raised its ugly head again following a decision by referee Mathew MacDermid to award the hosts a penalty-kick after Hatate had been felled in the box by Watson.


NUMBER TWO…Luis Palma (extreme left) watches his thunderbolt head for the back of the Killie net.

The match official was instructed by his assistants in front of the multi-screens to review the incident on the pitchside monitors and he returned to scrap the award much to the annoyance of everyone and Hatate, in particular, who had the ball tucked under his arm in readiness to take the kick.

Four minutes later, Kyogo was right of luck when he received a pass, swivelled to create an opportunity and walloped an effort off the upright. The linesman, wrongly, flagged for offside with TV pictures showing the Hoops hitman was onside when he moved onto the ball.

In the 71st minute, Dennis catapulted across his goal to push away a rasping shot from Hatate. Daizen Maeda blitzed in a header from the right-wing corner-kick which again brought out the best in the keeper.

Astonishingly, a minute later, Killie snatched a goal in a breakaway when Watson whipped a low drive past the exposed Hart after a surge up the left. VAR checked the validity of the strike after the possibility of a Kyle Vassell foul on Johnston in the build-up, but the visitors were awarded the goal.

The irate fans let the match officials know what they thought of the decision.

In the 74th minute, Nat Phillips and James Forrest replaced Cameron Carter-Vickers and Palma as Brendan Rodgers reorganised his line-up.

NUMBER THREE…Greg Taylor is all alone as he slots in the killer strike.

There was a glimpse of menace from Forrest when he cut in from the left to wallop in a 20-yard right-foot effort which was blocked by a desperate lunge from Jack Wright.

The third goal eventually arrived from the unlikely source of Taylor who finished like a seasoned striker in the 82nd minute. Maeda nodded down a left-wing corner-kick from O’Riley and the left-back was unmarked smack in front of goal to steer in a right-foot shot.

Moments later, Dennis pushed away a blistering drive from Maeda. The ball rebounded to Forrest who rushed his shot and hit the shotstopper when he would certainly have scored if he had applied a little composure and precision.

O’Riley went off to a standing ovation in the 85th minute with Odin Holm taking his place.

In the fading moments, Yang Hyun-jun and Oh Hyeon-gyu came on for  Maeda and Kyogo.

Everything considered, it was a good day at the office for the champions who can now take a rest during the international break.

The Premiership action returns with a trip to Tynecastle to take on Hearts a fortnight tomorrow.

TEAM: Hart; Johnston, Carter-Vickers (sub: Phillips 74), Scales, Taylor; O’Riley (sub: Holm 85), McGregor, Hatate; Maeda (sub: Yang 88), Kyogo (sub: Oh 88), Palma (sub: Forrest 74).

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