Celtic close gap on Aberdeen


Published: Monday 5th January 2015 by The News Editor

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Celtic closed the gap on Scottish Premiership leaders Aberdeen to one point with a convincing 2-0 win over Kilmarnock at Rugby Park.

The returning Kris Commons hit the bar twice in the first-half before left-back Emilio Izaguirre drove the dominant visitors ahead in the 36th minute.

Striker Stefan Scepovic, also handed a rare start by boss Ronny Deila, made it 2-0 from close range in the 71st minute but that goal did not come close to reflecting the grip the champions had on a one-sided affair.

While having a game in hand over the Dons, Deila takes his side off to a winter break in Gran Canaria on Tuesday morning – they will play PSV Eindhoven and Sparta Prague – with next week’s game against St Johnstone cancelled.

However, following such an impressive victory in Ayrshire they will return to resume the title battle full of confidence.

Deila, though, had clearly lost patience with on-loan Manchester City striker John Guidetti who had failed to hit the net in five appearances, the Swede’s place taken by Scepovic who had only scored three times since his £2.3million move from Sporting Gijon in the summer.

Commons and Liam Henderson were also brought in as Leigh Griffiths dropped to the bench alongside Guidetti with Anthony Stokes out injured.

Killie midfielder Craig Slater was suspended following his red card against St Mirren on New Year’s Day and Lee Miller was also missing with Jamie Hamill and Chris Johnston handed starting places.

Celtic had reportedly been refused permission to train on Killie’s artificial pitch ahead of the match.

However, the visitors did not appear to have any problems in adapting to the surface as they controlled the early stages with attacking midfielder Stefan Johansen and Henderson having efforts blocked.

A disjointed Killie side offered little aside from stubborn resistance and the Hoops kept probing.

In the 16th minute the sprightly Commons assumed control of an Izaguirre pass 25 yards out and promptly smacked the bar with a vicious left-footed drive, the former Derby player then having even less success with two further drives.

Another drive from Commons in the 25th minute, this time from closer range, also struck the bar before flying over.

Kilmarnock threatened for the first time three minutes later when midfielder Alexei Eremenko curled in a free-kick from wide on the left where Josh Magennis’s header drew a fine save from Hoops keeper Craig Gordon.

Robbie Muirhead replaced Johnston after 34 minutes, with Magennis moving back to midfield.

But the home side were soon behind when Johansen knocked the ball into the supporting Izaguirre who lashed a shot high past helpless Killie keeper Craig Samson, who had to make a good save from Commons before half-time to prevent the visitors doubling their lead and the second-half looked ominous for Killie.

In another Rugby Park reshuffle Magennis was moved back into attack for the start of the second period but the Parkhead side remained in control, albeit there was a fright in the 52nd minute when Hamill’s low drive from 25 yards sped just past the post.

Commons continued his vendetta on the Killie goal with another drive, this time deflected past for a corner which came to nothing.

Just after the hour mark, in one of Killie’s sporadic attacks, Gordon made a decent save from Muirhead’s drive which appeared to be heading into the top corner.

Still, Celtic controlled proceedings and they sealed the victory from a Johansen corner which was headed towards goal by Hoops stopper Efe Ambrose, leaving Scepovic to poke it over the line from a yard out.

The goal knocked the stuffing out of Killie.

There was an unsuccessful appeal for a Celtic penalty when the ball appeared to strike the hand of Killie skipper Mark Connolly before substitute Callum McGregor, on for Henderson, saw a shot deflected on to the post.

But it was academic as the Hoops saw out the win, reminding Aberdeen and the rest of Scottish football just why they are champions.

Published: Monday 5th January 2015 by The News Editor

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