Scottish Professional Football League
Sunday 13th December
Celtic Park. K.O. 3pm
A return to League duty after an impressive win and performance against Lille on Thursday night in the Europa League. Today’s opponents Kilmarnock had already claimed points against us with a draw back in August and also a chance for the Bhoys to win two games back to back since the first week in October. Neil Lennon kept faith with the fringe players he brought in for a tremendous job against the French. Conor Hazard in goals and Soro and Turnbull taking the field was a welcome sight for the support who have endured so much turmoil in the recent past. Greg Taylor also made a start ahead of Laxalt on the left and Shane Duffy the preferred partner with Jullien in centre defence with Ajer moved to right back.
The Celts started the game with their intentions firm with an immediate attack that won a corner on the left. Turnbulls delivery into the heart of the Killie box was met by the keeper who cleared as far as the head of Kris Ajer that was played back in and an acrobatic overhead kick by Duffy saw the ball travel well away from the goals. For the next five minutes Celtic allowed themselves to be penned back by an industrious Kilmarnock with Alan Power and Tshibola looking good on the ball. It didn’t help that Celtic were gifting possession with stray passes. The 7th minute saw Elyounoussi robbed of the ball as he was about to pull the trigger in the opposition box. Just a minute later a free kick floated in perfectly by David Turnbull was met by the head of Jullien who saw his steered effort tipped over by Killie keeper Danny Rogers. Celtic were now pressing high and a lot of play was based around the Kilmarnock goal with Turnbull involved in everything.
The same player should have scored on 19 minutes when a one two with Edouard saw him blaze over the bar. 22 minutes and a stonewall penalty was denied by the referee who saw no foul when Greg Taylor was pulled down by the keeper. Edouard and Turnbull were linking up well at this stage as Celtic kept knocking at the door. Some tight defensive work and alertness by Kilmarnock keeper Rogers were keeping the Hoops at bay. 31 minutes Jullien was felled when he had his ankle clipped by Kabamba and everyone feared the worse but to his credit the big man got up and dusted himself down for further battle. 35 minutes Alan Power was yellow carded for a foul on Frimpong and he would be joined in the book 7 minutes later when Kabamba fouled Wee Frimpong. It felt like Jeremie Frimpong was assaulted every time he was on the ball with little protection from Referee Don Robertson who was in no mood to advantage Celtic in any way. Frimpong is not a player who goes down easily and at times looks elasticated as he bounces back up. Last minute of the half saw an amazing turn on the ball with the fancy footwork of Ajer to lay on for Turnbull to shoot but the keeper done well again to punch out. It would have been a special goal.
Second half started once again with Celtic on the break with Frimpomg finding Elyounoussi who shot straight at the goalie. 47 minutes Taylor for the first time put a perfect cross to the back post to be met by the head of Edouard. The ball was blocked and deflected by the risen arm of McGowan and Rogers saved from there. Another stonewall penalty denied by a very poor referee. It was all Celtic and we looked very assured on the ball with a good tempo and possession. 49 minutes would see Killie keeper save from a Duffy header supplied yet again by young Turnbull. So obvious to see what we were missing from this lad as he makes every set piece a danger for the opponents. 51 minutes and another header by Edouard cleared off the line by Irishman Power who himself was having a solid game. 56 minutes another Turnbull corner was clawed out at the far right post again by Rogers. A goal was coming and the players in Hoops knew it. McGregor, Ajer and Elyounoussi were bossing it all over the pitch with fast direct play and more importantly incisive passing. The goal arrived in 57 minutes courtesy of Moi Elyounoussi who drifted in from the left and across the front of goal. A dip of the shoulder and he let rip only for some sort of deflection that cheeky Derry man Duffy tried to claim. Elyounoussi’s goal and 1-0 Celtic.
60 minutes should have brought the second goal when Ajer passed across the front of goal to see three hooped shirts watch it go by. 66 minutes and a mazy run by Cal McGregor, Captain for the day, layed on Turnbull who saw another effort deflected for a corner. The screw was being turned firmly on Kilmarnock and the defence were leading a charmed existence by this stage. The battered and bruised Frimpong made way for Ryan Christie on 67 minutes to bring fresh legs to the show and the wee man deserved his rest. Edouard also made way for Paddy Klimala. 69 minutes and 2-0. The second goal to ease the nerves when Turnbull’s delivery was pinpoint to the head of Shane Duffy who thundered it into the back of the net. It was nothing short of well deserved as Celtic were both dominant and excellent in the second period. The next ten minutes should have seen more goals with a ball across going through Paddy’s legs, an unlucky Christie volley going wide and another cracking header by big Duffy also going wide of the left post.
81 minutes saw Turnbull and Taylor make way for Rogic and Laxalt to settle the game down and the two Bhoys had also played their part in this tie. 83 minutes a last gasp slide tackle by Findlay stole the ball from Christie’s toe as he was about to execute. 86 minutes and Lennon introduced Mikey Johnston in place of Moi Elyounoussi. Johnston looked like he’d never been away and was immediately buzzing about the place and making all the right moves. He nearly grabbed a goal on 87 minutes but fizzed it just over the bar. A really good day at the office and some smiles on the players faces for a change. This result needs to be built upon and the confidence and feel good factor needs to stay as we have a fight on our hands this season. Lenny got his selection and subs both right and should be commended for inspiring the team to higher grounds for the second half and on another day it could have been 5-0 very easy. Man of the Match went deservedly to Kristofer Ajer but it should have been shared with Turnbull. Ajer to his credit awarded it to his colleague Shane Duffy who has had to endure heavy criticism but looked assured today. Onwards and upwards.
Frimpong - Christie (69)
Taylor - Laxalt (81)
Turnbull - Rogic (81)
Elyounoussi - Johnston (86)
Edouard - Klimala (69)
Kiltie - Burke (68)
Pinnock - Mulumbuat (68)
Kabamba - Brophy (79)
MOTM: Kristofer Ajer