FILIPE JOTA marked Celtic’s first game in Paradise in 2023 with the opening goal in the 2-0 win over Kilmarnock to propel the champions to a 12-point advantage in their pursuit of a second successive Premiership title.
It was also the flamboyant flyer’s first goal since his effort against Livingston in the 3-0 win in West Lothian in October following his return to the team after a five-game absence through injury.
The champions toiled in a low-tempo first-half against a hard-working Ayrshire outfit and it was heading for a scoreless stalemate at the interval when the £6.5million recruit from Benfica in the summer struck to break the deadlock.
PICK IT OUT…Kyogo Furuhashi gets a close-up view of Filipe Jota’s goal as the Portuguese flyer turns away in triumph after breaking the Kilmarnock barrier.
Daizen Maeda, who had displayed simply astonishing levels of energy throughout his 83 minutes on the pitch, raced onto a through pass from Alexandro Bernabei before whipping over an inviting low left-wing cross.
Killie keeper Sam Walker didn’t anticipate the pace of either Kyogo Furuhashi or Jota as he moved to collect the ball and it was the Portuguese raider who applied the crucial touch to divert an effort into the gaping net.
The second goal went in off Rugby Park defender Ash Taylor six minutes after the turnaround, but this was no lucky result for Ange Postecoglou’s men. They battered the woodwork FOUR times in the one-sided second-half with substitutes Giorgos Giakoumakis, twice, James Forrest and Matt O’Riley all denied by the crossbar and both posts.
Jota said: “We knew that they were going to be lower in the pitch and we had to find ways to break into their defence.
JOY BHOY JOTA…the Celtic fans’ favourite celebrates Parkhead’s first goal of 2023.
“We had to be dynamic, to make a lot of runs in behind them, and in the end, it’s a good result for us, so we’re really happy.
“I think every goal is important, it can be mine or another team-mate. In the end, we could have scored many more goals, it was so unlucky, I’ve never seen this, to be honest.
“We need to keep on our track and keep developing and working to achieve bigger things.”
Now Jota is turning his attention to the League Cup semi-final at Hampden on Saturday against the same opponents and, speaking to Celtic TV, added: “It’s always an important time of the year for us.
“We like to play there and last year it was my first experience of Hampden and I really liked playing there.
“We can’t wait to go there and perform and give our fans good football and get the win.”