KILMARNOCK 0 CELTIC 4
CELTIC showed some of the swagger that brought nine successive titles to the club as they completely dominated Killie at Rugby Park this evening.
It turned into a procession as Scott Brown, Odsonne Edouard (2) and Albian Ajeti got on the scoresheet in a game that was largely one-way for most of the 90 minutes.
There was a bit more zip and zest about the Hoops line-up as they controlled possession and keeper Scott Bain was rarely required to get his knees dirty.
They upped the tempo from the stuttering, tame performance against St Mirren at the weekend and loan signing Jonjoe Kenny looked eager to get involved as he patrolled the right wing and was making himself available for passes with some clever timing in his runs.
HEADS, I WIN…Scott Brown dives full length to divert in the opening goal beyond Killie keeper Colin Doyle.
Celtic probed the home rearguard right from the off and squandered an excellent chance to open the scoring in the ninth minute when Edouard had a fresh-air swipe from 12 yards after a slick move instigated by Ryan Christie with a quickfire series one one-twos involving David Turnbull and the Frenchman that saw Greg Taylor released on the left.
He sent a cute pass into the tracks on last season’s top goalscorer and he took a touch to tee it up and then completely missed with his left foot from 12 yards as the Killie rearguard breathed a sigh of relief and smuggled the ball clear.
Ten minutes later, the flamboyant forward rolled a pass in front of Turnbull who came within a foot of opening the scoring from 25 yards. The playmaker curled the ball beyond the sprawling Colin Doyle, but his effort swept just past the left-hand post.
However, the breakthrough goal did arrive in the 29th minute and it was a welcome back effort from skipper Brown who had controlled play in the opening half.
Turnbull sent in an inviting corner from the right and the midfielder took off in an acrobatic dive to get his head to the ball from eight yards and the keeper was helpless.
There was no argument the visitors deserved the lead and they came so close to doubling the advantage just on half-time when Turnbull had another try from just outside the box, but Doyle got down swiftly to his left to hold the effort.
Two minutes after the turnaround, the Hoops had the ball in the net when Edouard pounced after a Christie shot had been knocked onto the post by the keeper, but the midfielder had strayed just offside in the build-up.
SPOT ON…Odsonne Edouard strokes in the second with a penalty-kick.
The second goal wasn’t far away, though, and it arrived in the 53rd minute via the penalty spot.
Referee Kevin Clancy adjudged comeback man Ajeti, who had been almost anonymous, had been brought down by Doyle as he tried to race onto a ball from Kenny.
The Killie keeper was not all happy with the match official’s decision and his mood didn’t change when he got a left hand to Edouard’s kick, but couldn’t prevent it from eluding him at his post.
Four minutes later there was a scare for the Hoops when Rory McKenzie picked out Chris Burke at the far left-hand post with a sweeping cross and the Killie attacker saw his header scrambled away by Bain.
JOY BHOYS…Odsonne Edouard is congratulated by team-mates Kristoffer Ajer, David Turnbull, Greg Taylor and Callum McGregor.
In the 62nd minute, Celtic sprung the offside trap to grab a third goal and once again it was Edouard on target with his 16th of the campaign. Turnbull’s ball forward caught out the Killie backline and the Frenchman took the pass in his stride, carried it into the box and nonchalantly knocked it wide Doyle at his right.
Neil Lennon then made a blizzard of changes as he sent on Mohamed Elyounoussi, Patryk Klimala and Mikey Johnston for Christie, Edouard and Turnbull before the 73rd minute and Diego Laxalt joined the action in the fading moments for Taylor.
Celtic were 4-0 ahead at the time with Ajeti’s first goal since September after he was picked out by a superb through ball by Brown and he outmuscled a defender to get into the box before placing a shot past the helpless Doyle.
It was a huge response to the St Mirren flop and showed a glimpse of what-might-have-been this season.
TEAM: Bain; Kenny, Ajer, Welsh, Taylor (sub: Laxalt 90); Christie (sub: Elyounoussi 70), Brown, McGregor, Turnbull (sub: Johnston 73); Edouard (sub: Klimala 73), Ajeti.