The Sunday Post (Inverness)
High-five for Rodgers as Celtic deliver blow to Killies’ title challenge
The wisdom about it being tougher to find a poor bookie than a hens’ teeth bracelet on Lord Lucan’s wrist was hammered home by a barrage of goals at Celtic Park.
In the run-up to this meeting, supporter chat was all about the chance of Killie ‘doing a Leicester’ and emulating the 5,000-1 miracle pulled by the Foxes when winning the English Premier League title in 2015-16.
However, neither the praise for manager Steve Clarke from Killie majority shareholder Billy Bowie, nor the exotic backing of Marie Osmond, singer of club anthem Paper Roses, was enough to sway league sponsors Ladbrokes who priced the leaders up at an eyepopping 16/1 – just to win this game.
It didn’t take long, though, for their judgment in offering such apparent generosity to be vindicated as Celtic swatted away Killie’s challenge with nearcontemptuous ease to get themselves in the mood for the visit of Salzburg on Thursday night.
Just five minutes in, the champions scored to dunt the pretenders off the top of the “as it stands” table.
Scott Sinclair swung in a cross from the left and the fleet-footed James Forrest nipped in ahead of his marker to curl a low left foot volley into the corner of the net.
It was the winger’s 13th goal in his last 14 games for club and country.
If Killie couldn’t say they hadn’t been warned, they also could argue in their defence that hardly anybody else has been able to stop him either.
And, having taken the lead, they proceeded to stretch further and further away from the opponents.
Killie showed their qualities when going close to equalising through on-form Jordan Jones who forced Craig Gordon to make a decent stop.
That, though, was just one isolated moment in what was otherwise a tide of green and white pressure.
Celtic’s one-goal lead became two when Tom Rogic, twice denied by saves from Daniel Bachmann, turned provider by playing Odsonne Edouard into space. The Frenchman took a second to CELTIC:
(4-1-4-1) Gordon 7; Lustig 7, Simunovic 7, Benkovic 6, Izaguirre 7, Mcgregor 7, Forrest 9, Rogic 6 (Ntcham 62, 6), Christie 8 (Brown 77, 5), Sinclair 7, Edouard 8. Unused: Bain (Gk), Hendry, Griffiths, Gamboa, Hayes. KILMARNOCK:
(4-1-4-1) Bachmann 5; O’donnell 5, Findlay 5, Boyd 5, Taylor 6, Dicker 6, Mckenzie 6, Tshibola 5 (Brophy 46,6), Power 6, Jones 6, Stewart 5 (Ndjoli 77, 5). Unused: Macdonald (Gk), Boyd, Waters, Millen, Burke.
steady his balance before smashing a shot high into the net.
Soon enough it was three, Mikael Lustig the unlikely scorer when sticking out a leg to turn Callum Mcgregor’s cross past a bemused Bachmann.
In terms of pure technique Celtic’s best goal was their fourth, which arrived on the stroke of half time from a free kick just outside the box which Ryan Christie bent left footed round the wall and into the net.
Clarke sent on Eamonn Brophy in place of Aaron Tshibola and the substitute was quickly presented with a scoring opportunity from the penalty spot when Filip Benkovic fouled Ryan Mckenzie in the box.
His effort wasn’t the very best he has hit but it was good enough and it was 4-1.
Celtic weren’t done, though, just yet.
When Bachmann dived at Christie’s feet to deny him a second, Forrest followed up to secure his brace by shooting into the empty net.
As Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers summarised, it was an extremely impressive display – so good in fact that it will likely keep 33-year-old skipper Scott Brown on the substitutes bench for the Salzburg game.
“Listen, I have compassion for players, especially those that have done amazing for me but what I don’t have is sentimentality,” said the Celtic manager.
“It’s clear that the level and the fluency of the team is there.
“I have that compassion for players but my job is to win games and to win titles.
“Those two (Mcgregor and Christie) along with Tom Rogic have been sensational in how they play.”
Rodgers, who said he expects that Kieran Tierney will be fit to return from the minor niggle that kept him out of yesterday’s game, further denied that he would have a selection headache for the Europa League showdown.
“Not really. I will sit down with my staff and have a look.
“I know what Scott Brown and Olivier Ntcham can do.
“I know what the other guys can do too.
“I will pick a team to get the result.”
For his Killie counterpart Clarke, meanwhile, it was time to keep things in perspective.
“Six points from three games is still a good week for us,” he said after the match.
“People can’t forget that and I said to the players not to forget that either.” Having scored two, hit the post and delivered the pass of the match when picking out Odsonne Edouard from distance, it was fair to say the Scotland star justified his selection Celtic always turn up for the big games domestically. As soon as questions are asked they are answered.