Saturday 16 December 2017

Rogic's rocket puts last-gasp Celtic firmly in the driving seat

Kilmarnock 0-1 Celtic

Celtic's Tom Rogic celebrates with Mikael Lustig and Leigh Griffiths after scoring their first goal Photo: Reuters / Graham Stuart
Celtic's Tom Rogic celebrates with Mikael Lustig and Leigh Griffiths after scoring their first goal Photo: Reuters / Graham Stuart

Roddy Forsyth

There are occasions when, if one may borrow from Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, it seems that destiny has taken a hand. Saturday was such a day in the Scottish title race.

With less than a minute of normal time remaining of Celtic's lunchtime visit to Rugby Park, Kilmarnock were on the verge of holding the champions to a hard-fought goalless draw, the considerable implications of which were vivid in the imaginations of fans, pundits and media observers plus, of course, directors, players and coaches on both sides.

Were Celtic to drop two points, the door would be open to Aberdeen to leapfrog them at the top of the league by winning at Motherwell - an eventuality bound to rock Ronny Deila's already shaky position as manager.

Kilmarnock, meanwhile, would have secured a potentially priceless point against the odds in their fight to avoid the relegation play-off.


Those scenarios were shredded in the couple of seconds it took for Tom Rogic to gather possession from Callum McGregor 25 yards out and unleash a drive that seemed to leave contrails as it rocketed into the net beyond Jamie MacDonald.

The Celtic fans massed behind the Killie keeper's goal uttered a primal scream of mingled celebration and relief which persisted until the final whistle signalled euphoric salutes from their heroes, in radical contrast to the postures of the home players, some of whom sprawled in devastated fashion on the pitch.

An uninformed bystander would have been entitled to suppose that Celtic had, indeed, secured their fifth successive championship and that Kilmarnock had been condemned to life in the lower leagues.

Many will suspect that it is now only a matter of time before both scenarios are confirmed.

The manner in which a tremendous opportunity for Aberdeen was blocked off prompted speculation that the afternoon would likely get worse for the challengers.

So it proved at Motherwell, where the visitors took a first-half lead but then conceded two late goals in quick succession to throw away two points.

What had looked a fragile advantage for Celtic is now a four-point lead, buttressed by a massively superior goal difference and a game in hand.

It is certainly not improbable that they could now secure a fifth successive title by a double-figure points margin. What a difference a day makes.

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