| 6.4°C Dublin

Hoops see off Kilmarnock to take major step towards title

Celtic 3 Kilmarnock 1

Close

Leigh Griffiths celebrates scoring Celtic's third goal of the game. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Leigh Griffiths celebrates scoring Celtic's third goal of the game. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

PA

Leigh Griffiths celebrates scoring Celtic's third goal of the game. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Streets on the approach from Glasgow city centre to Celtic Park were closed to accommodate filming of the latest Batman movie, a circumstance which prompted the notion that Kilmarnock - who beat Rangers earlier this month - could play the Joker in the Scottish title race by repeating the feat here.

Indeed, Alex Dyer's team briefly conjured the possibility that Rangers could cut Celtic's lead to seven points, but the day ended with the Scottish champions 12 points ahead and looking all but untouchable in their pursuit of a ninth successive title.

Kilmarnock, despite the early advantage of an Eamonn Brophy penalty, were unable to contain Celtic, who led at the interval with goals from Kris Ajer and Odsonne Edouard, and the Ayrshire side were undone by the dismissal of Alan Power before Leigh Griffiths put the contest beyond dispute with a tap-in.

Celtic were without Scott Brown and James Forrest and were taken by surprise by their opponents' unexpectedly expansive opening. Kilmarnock forced three corners in succession, one of which came from a Nicke Kabamba drive that forced Fraser Forster into a diving block.

The pressure told after six minutes when Jozo Simunovic fouled Brophy in the box for a penalty that the Kilmarnock striker placed firmly beyond the goalkeeper.

Equalised

Close

Odsonne Edouard scores Celtic's second goal. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Odsonne Edouard scores Celtic's second goal. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

PA

Odsonne Edouard scores Celtic's second goal. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

However, Ajer soon equalised. The Norwegian's goal began with a venomous Simunovic drive from 35 yards that Laurentiu Branescu tipped over his crossbar for a corner kick. That corner fell beyond the back post to Christopher Jullien, whose cutback sat up for Ajer to turn home at pace.

It took only five minutes for Celtic to go in front, this time with Simunovic the supplier as he turned a Callum McGregor cross into the path of Edouard, to permit the Frenchman to bundle it in.

Whatever hope Kilmarnock had was quashed when Power was shown a second yellow card and then they fell further behind when McGregor set up Griffiths to net. The Scotland forward was denied a second goal by a superb reflex save by Branescu.

Celtic could have had another couple but, with a goal difference advantage of plus-20 over Rangers, they scarcely needed the bonus and it was a satisfied Neil Lennon who surveyed his players' achievement.

Close

Ryan Christie breaks away from Kilmarnock's Stephen O'Donnell. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Ryan Christie breaks away from Kilmarnock's Stephen O'Donnell. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

PA

Ryan Christie breaks away from Kilmarnock's Stephen O'Donnell. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

"I thought Eamonn (Brophy) was offside but our reaction to that was fantastic," the Celtic manager said. "I thought we were outstanding.

"To be fair to Alex Dyer, he went with two strikers but we dealt with that very well. I said to the players, 'Don't think it's easy what you're doing'. It's important we keep the momentum going." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Close

Kilmarnock's Alan Power walks off after being sent off at Celtic Park. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Kilmarnock's Alan Power walks off after being sent off at Celtic Park. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

PA

Kilmarnock's Alan Power walks off after being sent off at Celtic Park. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Close

Leigh Griffiths scores Celtic's third goal against Kilmarnock. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Leigh Griffiths scores Celtic's third goal against Kilmarnock. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

PA

Leigh Griffiths scores Celtic's third goal against Kilmarnock. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Telegraph.co.uk