Saturday 25 November 2017

Rogne saves point for wasteful Celtic

Celtic 1
Kilmarnock 1

Ronnie Esplin

Celtic wasted the chance to go top of the Scottish Premier League as they struggled to a draw with Kilmarnock at a freezing Parkhead.

The Bhoys had gone in to the game three points behind leaders Rangers but had the opportunity to move to the summit due to their superior goal difference. Dubliner Conor Sammon scored his 14th goal of the season to put Kilmarnock ahead shortly after half time and although Thomas Rogne's headed equaliser averted the ignominy of a first win at Parkhead in 55 years for the Ayrshire team, there were loud grumbles from the Hoops support at the final whistle.

Although Celtic were able to welcome Scott Brown back to action after months of absence, they lost Gary Hooper to an injury that could keep him out of the Old Firjm derby on January 2.

The result means Celtic's Old Firm rivals retain their lead in the table and now have the luxury of a game in hand.

Niall McGinn, James Forrest and Emilio Izaguirre returned as Neil Lennon reshuffled his side for their first game in over three weeks while Mixu Paatelainen's unchanged Kilmarnock side travelled to Glasgow as one of the form teams in Scotland having won five of their last seven SPL games.

Despite knowing victory would see them leapfrog Rangers, the sub-zero temperatures kept thousands of home fans away.

The Parkhead side bombed forward from the start, and in the fifth minute, after some hesitation in the Killie defence, McGinn had a chance from 12 yards, but drove straight at 'keeper Cameron Bell.

In the 12th minute Bell fumbled a low McGinn cross to cause some panic in the Ayrshire side's defence, and as they failed to clear the danger properly, the former Derry City winger was presented with another opportunity, but slashed wide from 10 yards on the angle.

McGinn had another chance against Bell in the 20th minute when he was through on goal, but the 'keeper blocked for another corner which Killie survived.

Lennon's side continued to crowd around the Kilmarnock penalty area but at times the visitors, who were showing nothing at all in attack, were causing their own problems with some sloppy defending.

In the 35th minute Celtic striker Hooper was stretchered off after collapsing to the ground following what looked like an innocuous tussle with Killie defender Frazer Wright.

Hooper was replaced by Anthony Stokes and the home side appeared to lose a little momentum as the game edged towards the interval.

The pattern of the second half remained unchanged as Celtic used both wings to press for the opening goal while Killie's unforced errors helped keep them on the back foot.

However, in the 54th minute, in what was the first real attack of the game, Kilmarnock took a shock lead through their on-form striker Sammon. After Celtic had spurned yet another opportunity the visitors broke quickly and midfielder Mehdi Taouil sent Sammon racing over the halfway line.

There was still a lot to do but the Irishman brushed off the attention of the back-tracking Izaguirre to burst into the box and drive an angled shot past Celtic 'keeper Fraser Forster.

As the hosts struggled to get level, Brown replaced Joe Ledley and Paddy McCourt came on for fellow Northern Ireland international McGinn, but it was Kilmarnock who were breaking with confidence and looking to get a second goal.

Bell was booked for time wasting as Celtic pressed for the equaliser, which eventually came on 84 minutes -- Rogne getting his head to Ki Sung-Yeung's cross and sparing the home side an embarrassing defeat.

Irish Independent

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