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  • Celtic pay the penalty at Rugby Park

    Celtic pay the penalty at Rugby Park

    By: Martin Dalziel on 12 Aug, 2015 21:47

  • Ladbrokes Premiership
    Rugby Park, Kilmarnock
    Wednesday, August 12, 2015

    (Magennis 44, Higginbotham 87’, [penalty]

    (Griffiths 2, Bitton 55)

    A LATE penalty for Kilmarnock saw Celtic held to a 2-2 draw at Rugby Park tonight (Wednesday), ending the Hoops' winning run to the start of the 2015/16 Premiership season.

    Ronny Deila's side dominated large parts of the match and took the lead inside two minutes through Leigh Griffiths but they were pegged back just before half-time when Josh Magennis pounced to convert a low cross from Darryl Westlake.

    A wonder goal from Nir Bitton 10 minutes into the second-half put the Hoops deservedly back in front and they went on to continue to batter away at the hosts’ goal in search of a third, but Emilio Izaguirre’s challenge on Westlake with four minutes left saw the referee point to the spot, and striker Kallum Higginbotham earned his side a draw with the penalty-kick.

    Three changes were made to the side following Sunday's 2-0 win over Partick Thistle with Saidy janko starting hsi first game for the Bhoys in place of Mikael Lustig and Efe Ambrose and James Forrest coming in for Dedryck Boyata and Stuart Armstrong.

    The tinkered line-up made no difference to the team’s approach from that dominant win over the jags, however, as Ronny Deila’s men started the match a bang, scoring inside the first two minutes.

    The Celts won a free-kick on the right touchline just inside Killie’s half, which was taken quickly by Kris Commons after he spotted the run of Griffiths towards the box. The striker allowed the ball to drop over his shoulder and he killed it with his first touch before steadying himself and slotting a low shot beyond MacDonald to give the champions the lead.

    The pressure didn’t stop there as the imperious Hoops went on the hunt for a second through a period of fast passing and slick play for the first 15 minutes. Commons, Tom Rogic and Forrest were all denied during that spell by good saves from MacDonald as the Hoops hammered the Killie goal with a barrage of shots and attacks.

    The home side managed to survive the onslaught and mounted a brief attack of their own when Greg Kiltie dispossessed Rogic inside Celtic’s half and took a shot at goal but his effort was rushed and well wide of Gordon’s net.

    Normal order resumed thereafter as the Bhoys continued to play at a high tempo. Forrest, Rogic and Commons all looked in a threatening mood for the first half-hour, backed up by Stefan Johansen and Nir Bitton’s solidity in midfield, but the game came to an early finish for last week’s goal-scorer, Commons, as he was replaced by Gary Mackay-Steven after picking up a knock.

    Killie then had a golden chance to equalise when Josh Magennis beat the offside trap to gather a ball over the Hoops defence on 35 minutes but he blazed his shot over the bar under little pressure.

    Lee Ashcroft then saw Craig Gordon save his point-blank header on the line after meeting a cross-in from a free-kick on the right but the Celtic keeper could do nothing minutes later stop the hosts’ surprise equaliser on the stroke of half-time.

    Killie had just survived a goal-line scramble in their own penalty area before they broke up the pitch down the Bhoys left side. Westlake then crossed into the box for Magennis, who ghosted to the front post and curled a first-time shot beyond Gordon.

    It was a bitter blow for the Celts to take, given their utter control of proceedings up until that point, and saw the teams go in at the break level.

    A lull lay over the Celtic support at the start of the second-half, still stunned from Killie’s shock equaliser but they didn’t have long to wait to have something to sing about.

    The Bhoys came out fired up and kept the ball well and won a free-kick 25 yards out after Mackay-Steven was clattered to the ground on the edge of the area.

    Van Dijk’s shot from the seti-piece clipped the wall and was cleared but the Celts were signalling their intent and went close again when a brilliant burst of pace from Forrest saw him beat two challenges and provide a cut-back for Griffiths but the striker couldn’t connect properly.

    Bitton made no mistake with his own connection seconds later, however, when he powered the Celts back into the lead with an outrageous long-range shot on 55 minutes.

    The midfielder picked up the ball from Rogic 25 yards out after the Australian did well to break forward and shrug off a challenge near the box. The Israeli took one touch to get it out of his feet before coolly smashing a shot beyond MacDonald to put Celtic rightly back in front.

    It was a remarkable goal, which MacDonald could do nothing about, despite being the man that had kept his side in the tie up until that point.

    Celtic then began to turn the screw with Griffiths going close with an angled shot from the edge of the box but Killie looked dangerous on the break and Gordon was forced to tip over a shot from Rory McKenzie.

    Just like the first-half, the home side began to rally as the clock ticked down to the end of the half and the Celts had Gordon to thank again when he saved a strong free kick from second-half substitute Arron Splaine before tipping Mark O’Hara’s header wide.

    Horror then struck for Ronny Deila’s side when Emilio Izaguirre was penalised for a challenge on Westlake inside the box with four minutes left and a penalty was awarded.

    Kallum Higginbotham stepped up for the spot-kick and calmly chipped it into the centre of the goal, with Gordon diving to his right.

    Celtic tried their best to claim a late winner and went close when Griffiths did well to connect with Janko’s cross from the right but his header went wide of MacDonald’s goal, giving Killie a share of the points.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Janko, Ambrose, van Dijk, Izaguirre; Bitton (McGregor 85’), Johansen; Commons (Mackay-Steven 29’), Rogic, Forrest (Mulgrew 60); Griffiths

    Not used: Bailly, Fisher, Henderson, Stokes

    KILMARNOCK (4-2-3-1) MacDonald; Smith, Hamill, Connolly, McKenzie, Robinson (Splaine 66’), Higginbotham, Westlake, Ashcroft (O’Hara 43’), Kiltie (McLean 90’), Magennis

    Not used: Davies, Barbour, Hodge, Hawkshaw,

    Website man of the match: James Forrest

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