LETHAL Leigh Griffiths ran amok with a spectacular second-half hat-trick as Celtic stormed eight points clear at the top of the SPFL table at Parkhead.
Griffiths came on as a substitute for James Forrest in the second-half and thumped in three goals in an amazing 19-minute spell to dump the Rugby Park side who had silenced the fans by taking the lead.
Ronny Deila brought back John Guidetti, Kris Commons and Forrest and left Griffiths on the bench for the start of another must-win occasion in the quest for four titles in a row.
Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven, who are both Cup-tied and will miss Sunday’s semi-final against Inverness Caley Thistle, were also benched.
The Hoops bossed the game early on, but failed to make the expected breakthrough. Skipper Scott Brown had a chance when he raced into the box to get on the end of an Emilio Izaguirre cross, but he scooped the ball well of target.
Commons then picked out Virgil Van Dijk with an expertly-taken corner-kick to the near post, but the Dutchman’s header flew wide of the post.CELTIC_KILLIE_1503
Celtic were in control as half-time approached, but there was no sign of the breakthrough goal to soothe the nerves of the supporters.
And their anxiety went into overdrive when Killie, who failed to make the top six cut, took the lead five minutes after the turnaround.
Darryl Westlake tried his luck from a tight angle and the ball spun off Jason Denayer past a startled Craig Gordon into the net to be greeted with complete silence. That wasn’t in the script.
Eight minutes later Celtic levelled with Brown and Commons laying claim to the last touch as the ball was worked across the box. Both swung at the same time and Brown was swift to claim the credit.
It didn’t matter as long as the game was back on track and another three points were there for the taking. CELTIC_KILLIE_1312
Griffiths, who had come on in the 61st minute, revitalised the team and put them ahead five minutes after his introduction with a powerful header after a neat cross from Commons.
The striker grabbed another with a wicked low drive in off the post on 80 minutes and struck again soon after when he drilled home from a tight angle to seal the points.
A big well done to everyone who honoured the memory of Brother Walfrid by supporting the food bank collection this evening. It is a very Celtic thing to do.
TEAM: Gordon; Matthews, Denayer, Van Dijk; Brown, Bitton; Commons (sub: Armstrong 81), Johansen (sub: Mackay-Steven 82), Forrest (sub: Griffiths 61); Guidetti.
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