CELTIC were on the receiving end of back-to-back Premiership defeats, enjoyed their first Champions League win in a decade and completed the year with the cheers of 60,000 joyous fans ringing round Parkhead following a success over Philippe Clement’s ‘rejuvenated Rangers’.

Brendan Rodgers’ side eased into December with Premiership victories over St Johnstone (3-1) and Hibs (4-1) before they came unstuck against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park.

Matt O’Riley had given the visitors a deserved lead at the venue where they toppled out of the League Cup in the third game of the season, but the hosts stormed back after the interval as the rain poured down from leaden, grey skies.

ENDGAME…Nat Phillips, who scored an own goal, Yang Hyun-jun, sub keeper Scott Bain, Brendan Rodgers and Callum McGregor are crestfallen after the flop at Rugby Park. 

The visitors were still a goal to the good with 15 minutes to go when the roof collapsed on them. Nat Phillips, on loan from Liverpool, diverted a right-wing cross past Joe Hart for the equaliser. It was one of the defender’s last acts as a Celt as he never appeared again and was returned to Anfield in January.

It got worse for Celtic when Matty Kennedy netted the late winner to inflict a first league defeat of the season on the Hoops.

Gustaf Lagerbielke was the unlikely goal hero three days later as the Hoops at last gained a win in Europe’s most prestigious competition after ten long years.

It was deadlocked at 1-1 with Feyenoord after Luis Palma’s penalty-kick had been wiped out in the 82nd minute. The clock was ticking down when Matt O’Riley appeared on the left, spotted the Swede, a substitute for the injured Stephen Welsh, unmarked at the back post.

SWEDE DREAMS…Gustaf Lagerbielke celebrates his winner against Feyenoord.

The astute playmaker picked out the defender with a lobbed cross and the player headed into the inviting net.

However, there was another setback in store for Rodgers and his men as Hearts won 2-0 at Parkhead through first-half goals from Lawrence Shankland and Stephen Kingsley.

The frustration of the home support was evident at the full-time whistle.

Celtic, thankfully, got back on track with a 2-0 home victory over Livingston where Liam Scales was another unlikely scorer as he added to Kyogo Furuhashi’s opener and Paulo Bernardo claimed his first goal for the club in the 3-0 success over Dundee at Dens Park on Boxing Day.

Mikey Johnston, who would go on loan to West Brom in January, drilled in a double for his first goals in over four years.

JOY BHOYS…derby goal heroes Paulo Bernardo and Kyogo Furuhashi, with some assistance from Luis Palma, celebrate Celtic’s 2-1 win at Parkhead on December 30.

Parkhead rocked to its foundations during a pulverising derby confrontation when Clement, who had taken over from the sacked Michael Beale in mid-October, brought his team across Glasgow as he set out to protect a 10-game unbeaten domestic sequence.

A fabulous first-time strike by Bernardo, on loan from Benfica, in the 25th minute helped to dismantle that record.

Kyogo, with his seventh strike in a year against Ibrox opposition, collected one of the goals of the season as he curled in a left-foot effort from just outside the box only minutes after the turnaround.

James Tavernier swept in a free-kick in the 88th minute and ten minutes were added on with the hosts unusually anxious before referee Nick Walsh blew for full-time.

The win pushed the champions eight points ahead of their nearest challengers as they prepared for 2024.

It was to prove to be a significant margin between the clubs.


December 3: Premiership: St Johnstone 1 CELTIC 3

McGregor, O’Riley, Forrest

December 6: PremiershipCELTIC 4 Hibs 1

Oh (2), O’Riley, Palma (pen)

December 10: Premiership: Kilmarnock 2 CELTIC 1


December 13: Champions League: CELTIC 2 Feyenoord 1

Palma (pen), Lagerbielke

December 16: Premiership: CELTIC 0 Hearts 2

December 23: Premiership: CELTIC 2 Livingston 0

Kyogo, Scales

December 26: Premiership: Dundee 0 CELTIC 3

Bernardo, Johnston (2)

December 30: PremiershipCELTIC 2 Rangers 1

Bernardo, Kyogo

* TOMORROW: Don’t miss Diary of an Epic Season: January 2024 

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