KILMARNOCK 1 CELTIC 4
CELTIC blew their opponents away in a four-goals-in-20-minutes first-half blast at Rugby Park this afternoon.
Any hopes Derek McInnes’ side had of hoping to halt the landslide of defeats against the champions were in tatters before the half-hour mark. They had gone into the encounter on the back of three consecutive losses against the Hoops, conceding nine times and failing to collect one.
The game was over as a contest during a whirlwind 20 first-half minutes when the rampant champions fired in four goals and could even afford a penalty-kick miss from Kyogo Furuhashi, who is still looking for his Hoops half-century.
Matt O’Riley collected a double, Kyogo got the show on the road and Daizen Maeda pitched in with a header as the visitors went on the rampage in Ayrshire.
It was a procession towards the shell-shocked Sam Walker and his defenders as the title kings tore into them with a fearsome verve and gusto.
BY THE LEFT…Kyogo Furuhashi whips a low drive past two Killie defenders to kick off the deluge.
GOAL NUMBER ONE arrived in the seventh minute as Kyogo staged an action replay of his feat at the same venue in August.
On that occasion, he opened the scoring in the exact same minute and it was another memorable effort this time around. The pacy Japanese raider anticipated a passback from Fraser Murray and sped after it on full throttle.
Joe Murray tried to cut out the danger, but he was left tackling fresh air as the Hoops ace raced past him.
Kyogo refused to rush his shot and turned inside onto his left foot, sized up the situation in a heartbeat and then whipped a low drive away from Walker.
HEAD BHOY…Daizen Maeda rises to double Celtic’s advantage with Kyogo Furuhashi watching.
GOAL NUMBER TWO arrived five minutes later and was claimed by the hard-working Maeda and was the end product of a superb flowing move from the visitors.
O’Riley set Sead Haksabanovic in motion on the right and the winger played in Alistair Johnston who had taken up an intelligent position near the byline.
The Canadian World Cup star clipped a ball to the back post and Maeda’s timing was perfect as he nodded his effort back cross the flapping and helpless Walker into the far corner.
PICK IT OUT…Matt O’Riley holds off the challenge of Liam Donnelly to slot in the third Hoops strike.
GOAL NUMBER THREE hit the net in the 18th minute and once against the Killie back lot were shredded by some mesmerising quickfire passing.
The assured Yuki Kobayashi picked out Greg Taylor in an advanced position and he knocked a pass in front of O’Riley.
The elegant Danish Under-21 international playmaker was practically on the penalty spot as he finished the move with an epertly-placed left-foot shot that once again left Taylor helpless as it headed unerringly towards its destination.
A TOUCH OF CLASS…Matt O’Riley prepares to launch a left-foot effort past lunging defender Ash Taylor for the fourth goal during the Rugby Park rampage.
GOAL NUMBER FOUR was collected in the 27th minute and it was a thing of beauty from O’Riley as he arced a left-foot effort beyond the stranded Walker.
A ball across from Maeda on the left was deflected high and eventually fell to the London-born midfielder who sent an exquisite drive high into the net.
Kyogo – of all people! – squandered a penalty-kick in the 21 st minute after Taylor had been tripped by the cumbersome Christian Doidge.
The usually deadly hitman clattered the ball off the base of the keeper’s right-hand upright as Walker took off for his left.
Killie claimed their consolation goal in first-half stoppage-time when Liam Donnelly robbed Callum McGregor to force a good diving save from Joe Hart.
The ball broke to Daniel Armstrong who saw his first-time drive diverted by Kobayashi, but it was third time lucky for the hosts when the ricochet fell to Donnelly who walloped it in from close range.
OOPS…Kyogo Furuhashi passes up the opportunity of his 50th Celtic goal as he hits a penalty-kick against the woodwork. Alistair Johnston and Sead Haksabanovic look on.
The tempo, possibly understandably, dropped off in the second-half with Oh Hyeon-gyu replacing Kyogo at the start with his South Korean international coach Jurgen Klinsmann looking on from the stand.
The second period is largely forgettable although 17-year-old Ben Summers will certainly remember it as he came on in the fading moments for his debut as he took over from Haksabanovic.
In the 68th minute, Ange Postecoglou threw on David Turnbull, Aaron Mooy and Rocco Vata for McGregor, O’Riley and Maeda as he tried to add some impetus to his team.
The scoreline remained the same, but Celtic will hardly be complaining as they won their 17th successive game to match the feat of Brendan Rodgers’ 2017 Invincibles.
They also restored the 12-point advantage and now all eyes are on the visit of Motherwell on Saturday in the countdown to the second successive crown.
TEAM: Hart; Johnston, Starfelt, Kobayashi, Taylor; Iwata, McGregor (sub: Turnbull 68), O’Riley (sub: Mooy 68); Hakšabanović (sub: Summers 88), Kyogo (sib: Oh 46), Maeda (sub: Vata 68).