Full Time After Extra Time This is a live match. Extra Time Half Time

Kilmarnock vs Celtic.

Scottish Premiership.

Kilmarnock 1

  • N Kabamba (66th minute)

Celtic 3

  • O Edouard (25th minute)
  • L Griffiths (51st minute)
  • C Jullien (73rd minute)

Kilmarnock 1-3 Celtic: Christopher Jullien ends hosts' fightback as Hoops stay top

Match report as Celtic maintain their two-point cushion over Rangers at the top of the Scottish Premiership

Thursday 23 January 2020 08:07, UK

Odsonne Edouard 3:44
Highlights of the Scottish Premiership match between Kilmarnock and Celtic.

Celtic returned to winning ways in the Scottish Premiership to preserve their two-point lead over Rangers courtesy of a 3-1 victory over Kilmarnock at Rugby Park.

Neil Lennon's side were forced to spend this season's winter break reflecting on the disappointment of losing the Old Firm derby, but they were rarely in any danger of slipping to successive league defeats.

Odsonne Edouard sent Celtic on their way with his 18th goal of the season (25) before Leigh Griffiths doubled the visitors' lead six minutes after the restart.

Nicke Kabamba reduced the deficit with an instinctive finish on his league debut for the hosts (66), but Christopher Jullien's firm header soon restored Celtic's two-goal cushion (73).

The result means Kilmarnock have lost six consecutive Scottish Premiership games and remain in seventh place while Celtic stay top, with Rangers - who have a game in hand over their Glasgow rivals - beating St Mirren 1-0 also on Wednesday.

Edouard slides home his 18th goal of the season at Rugby Park on Wednesday
Image: Edouard slides home his 18th goal of the season at Rugby Park on Wednesday

Player ratings

Kilmarnock: Koprivec (6), O'Donnell (6), Bruce (6), Findlay (6), Hamalainen (6), Power (6), Dicker (5), El Makrini (5), Bunn (6), Burke (6), Kabamba (7).

Subs: Del Fabro (n/a), Kiltie (n/a), Brophy (6).

Celtic: Forster (6), Simunovic (7), Jullien (7), Ajer (7), Frimpong (7), Brown (7), Ntcham (7), McGregor (6), Hayes (6), Griffiths (8), Edouard (8).

Subs: Bauer (n/a), Johnston (6), Bayo (n/a).

Man of the match: Leigh Griffiths.

How Celtic responded like champions

Kilmarnock entered the game buoyed by a 6-0 Scottish Cup win over Queen's Park but they failed to register a shot on target during the opening 45 minutes.

Celtic had not lost in the league after going in front since September 2018 - a run of 39 wins in 40 games - when they were defeated 2-1 by Kilmarnock, but there was no danger of there being a repeat.

More on this story

It was 12 months ago at Rugby Park where Rangers' Scottish Premiership title tilt unravelled with a 2-1 defeat, but with this year's battle looking set to go down to the wire, Neil Lennon knew there was no margin for error.

Odsonne Edouard had the chance to break the deadlock when he fired wide
Image: Edouard had the chance to break the deadlock when he fired wide

His side put on a very professional first-half display, and had already threatened through a Jozo Simunovic header when Edouard missed a glorious chance to break the deadlock.

It was a searching ball from Simunovic that Kilmarnock goalkeeper Jan Koprivec misjudged allowing Griffiths to set up his strike partner, but the Frenchman could only stroke his shot wide.

Team news

Harry Bunn and Nicke Kabamba were both handed their league debuts for Kilmarnock while Jan Koprivec retained his place in goal.

Celtic made three changes to the side that beat Partick 2-1 in the Scottish Cup at the weekend. Jozo Simunovic, Kristoffer Ajer and Jonny Hayes replaced Nir Bitton, Greg Taylor and Tomas Rogic.

But Celtic duly took the lead after 25 minutes when Jeremie Frimpong skipped away from Niko Hamalainen to cross for Edouard to masterfully evade Alan Power and stroke his shot underneath Koprivec.

Kilmarnock knew they now faced an uphill task having failed to win any game this season having conceded the first goal, and the closest they came to levelling came when Hamalainen's low cross just evaded Mohamed El Makrini at the near post.

The home side had shown their opponents too much respect during the opening period, but they began the second half brightly as Kabamba played a one-two with Power on the edge of the box before seeing his shot deflect just wide off Simunovic.

Leigh Griffiths flashes his shot beyond Jan Koprivec  to double Celtic's lead
Image: Leigh Griffiths flashes his shot beyond Jan Koprivec to double Celtic's lead

But that in turn served as the warning sign Celtic needed as moments later, Griffiths doubled their lead with his 17th strike against Kilmarnock, the most goals he has scored against a single opponent.

Frimpong was once more involved as he slipped the ball inside for Callum McGregor, and once Griffiths had been released on the left, his shot deflected off Alex Bruce beyond Koprivec at his near post.

There was a brief scare for Celtic as Kabamba made it two goals in as many games following his transfer from Hartlepool as the 26-year-old directed Power's miscued shot from Eamonn Brophy's cross beyond Fraser Forster from close range.

But those hopes of an unlikely point were ended when Jullien rose to meet Griffiths' pinpoint corner and head home his fifth goal of the season.

Substitute Mikey Johnston came close to extending Celtic's advantage when his direct run resulted in him shooting a yard wide of the post, but there was concern for Lennon in the closing stages as the impressive Frimpong felt the full force of a robust challenge from Power, forcing him off on a stretcher.

Celtic’s Jeremie Frimpong (left) exchanges words with Kilmarnock's Alan Power as he is stretchered off at Rugby Park
Image: Frimpong exchanges words with Kilmarnock's Alan Power as he is stretchered off at Rugby Park

What the managers said

Kilmarnock boss Alex Dyer: "I thought our side played well. There were a few mistakes from our point of view but we tried our best and worked hard. We gave 100 per cent but they've got quality all over the pitch and can punish you.

"We gave ourselves a little bit of hope making it 2-1 but it was a great header from Jullien. He must've jumped eight foot! You can't stop that!"

Neil Lennon applauds the 1,000 travelling Celtic fans at Cluj 0:38
Celtic manager Neil Lennon was 'ecstatic' at his side's 3-1 win at Kilmarnock that keeps them two points clear at the top of the Scottish Premiership

Celtic boss Neil Lennon: "I'm ecstatic, I thought it was a great performance. We scored some great goals and created some good chances on a difficult pitch against difficult opposition. I thought the attitude of the team was spot on and we thoroughly deserved the win.

Man of the match: Leigh Griffiths

Leigh Griffiths applauds the fans during the match against Kilmarnock
Image: Griffiths applauds the fans during the match against Kilmarnock

Griffiths continued his fine recent run of form as he made it two goals in as many games at Rugby Park. The 29-year-old forward completed a fine individual display by setting up Jullien for his clinching header.

Lennon added: "The link-up play and understanding between Leigh and Odsonne was outstanding. They've got goals in them, and Griffiths is looking fitter and stronger. Edouard is a special player."

'No real hassles for Celtic'

Christopher Jullien celebrates his header and Celtic's third at Kilmarnock
Image: Christopher Jullien celebrates his header and Celtic's third at Kilmarnock

Analysis from Sky Sports' Charlie Nicholas

"They were smooth tonight and weren't really forced until it went to 2-1. I thought Edouard was excellent and his link-up play with Griffiths in the second half was nice.

"I don't like this surface and the big worry for Celtic is another injury as Frimpong went off injured. I don't like this artificial surface, it should go, and shouldn't be in the top level of our country. No real hassles for Celtic."

What's next?

Kilmarnock travel to face St Johnstone in the Scottish Premiership on Saturday; kick-off 3pm. Meanwhile, Celtic host Ross County at the same time.

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