Saturday 8th December.
3pm Celtic Park.
Rampant, ruthless, scintillating and thrilling. Just some of the words that could be used to describe Celtic’s first half performance that blew title challengers Kilmarnock away and wrapped up a game that was considered a banana skin. In the last four games between the two sides the Ayrshire men held the upper hand with two wins and two draws. Stevie Clarke has this Kilmarnock side playing with belief and a flair that could have caused all sorts of problems on a day where top spot in the league was the prize at the end. It feels like an age since we have been back home on domestic duty and the fans were up for this on a dark, dank, typical Glasgow day.
Killie have been Nobody’s mugs this season with having only shipped 12 goals in 16 outings and were deserving of their top spot when they rolled up at Celtic Park. But by the end of a first half 45 minutes the Hoops had played breathtaking football, ripped Kilmarnock to shreds and scored four goals to finish the game early. This will be the day that will be remembered for Celtic as the day an authoritative foot was stamped down for all to remember who was ‘Top Dogs.’ Forrest, Edouard, Lustig and Christie were all on the scoresheet to make the managers half time talk pretty relaxed.
Celtic put down their marker very early and after 5 minutes Izaguirre in for the injured Tierney, had crossed the ball into the box in the path of an advancing James Forrest to direct the ball into the back of the net with a side left foot. Number two arrived on the 25 minutes mark after some beautiful link up play and Rogic weighted a ball beautifully into Edouard’s path For the big French man to cooly slot the ball above the keeper into the top right of the goal. Celtic were all over this game like a rash and there was no shortage of good attacking football to watch as Kilmarnock tried to shackle the Hoops while trying to muster some sort of attack themselves. Always nice to see a team whose game plan doesn’t consist of two banks of defence with forwards dropping back to help out.
It wasn’t a case of Kilmarnock being bad, more of just how * good Celtic were playing. High tempo and beautiful link up play was the order of the first 45 minutes. Only for Kilmarnock goalkeeper Bachmann, who had a solid enough game, the score line was kept down. In between goals he had saved two from Rogic as well as headed efforts by Simunovic and Forrest. Lo and behold number three arrived from a set piece. Callum McGregor took a free kick on the left that arrived for Celts favourite Lustig who put a close range shot away with the right foot. Only a matter of how many now.
With half time looming, Celtic were awarded a free kick outside the box on the right. Man of the moment Ryan Christie stepped forward and curled the ball above the wall and past the keeper to the right. 4-0 and it was a cert. so much confidence from this player that I hadn’t been so sure of a free kick since the Nakamura days. Game over. What a first half display and player of the month award should be winging its way to our versatile Mr Christie.
Second half and Kilmarnock dared to take the field but the mauling was over. Celtic stepped down a gear with the visit from Salzburg on Thursday in mind it was the right option to reserve energy. Kilmarnock got a consolation goal from the penalty spot when Benkovic was deemed to have unfairly tackled Rory McKenzie. Eamon Brophy converted for the goal and it was 4-1. Celtic didn’t drop in dominance because at times they had 70% possession but the final third wasn’t as clinical as the first half. The Bhoys also had a couple of penalty claims when Forrest was upended and a handball in the box. But this is Scottish refereeing and our decisions rarely seem to even out. Hardly mattered.
5-1. Forrest again with his second of the game. So much energy and genius from Wee Forrest this season and it has to be the Brendan Rodgers effect. Never has James had so much consistency in his time in the Hoops but must be up there for player of the season already. Sinclair on the wing was looking very lively at times and had a good solid performance. Denied a goal when he placed a shot from the corner of the box but it struck the bar at the postage stamp. Hopefully a few more games will see him return to old ways. Griffiths also got a run out with about 25 minutes to play, replacing French Ed. Giving him a break and Griff some game time.
Overall it could have been a higher score line but Brendan was a happy man at the end of the game. Celtic dominated in every aspect and never looked back after the first went in. 65% possession, 20 shots with 11 on target tells a story of a game where the Hoops played football the Celtic way. Also taking our rightful place of top spot in the league with games in hand over second placed Kilmarnock and a thrilling European all or nothing game on Thursday night. Oh how glorious to be a Tim at the moment. As Nile Rodgers (no relation) says “these are the good times.” Roll on Thursday and “Let the People Sing.”
Celtic 5-1 Kilmarnock
Man of the match: James Forrest.
Special mention: Emilio Izaguirre.
My man of the match: the Celtic team.
CELTIC: Gordon; Lustig, Simunovic, Benkovic, Izaguirre; McGregor, Christie (Brown 77), Rogic (Ntcham 61), Sinclair, Forrest; Edouard (Griffiths 66)
Subs: Bain, Hendry, Gamboa, Hayes
KILMARNOCK: Bachmann; O’Donnell, S.Boyd, Findlay, Taylor; McKenzie, Dicker, Tshbola (Brophy 51), Power, Jones; Stewart
Subs: MacDonald, K.Boyd, Ndjoli, Waters, Millen, Burke