Leigh Griffiths hat-trick gives Celtic boss Ronny Deila food for thought
Celtic 4-1 Kilmarnock
Substitute Leigh Griffiths helped himself to a quickfire second-half hat-trick as Celtic came from behind to beat Kilmarnock 4-1 at Parkhead and go eight points clear at the top of the Scottish Premiership
Following a dull first 45 minutes in which the visitors barely crossed the halfway line, Killie defender Darryl Westlake stunned the Hoops support when he fired the Ayrshire men ahead in the 50th minute with a deflected drive.
Midfielder Kris Commons levelled for the chastened home side eight minutes later and Griffiths immediately replaced James Forrest before netting three goals in a remarkable 19-minute spell to increase the advantage over Aberdeen with six games left.
"He (Griffiths) played very well tonight," said Celtic chief Ronny Deila.
"He has improved a lot. Training well, getting better and better as a 24-hour athlete - even though he eats cakes on bench sometimes!
"Just the start, though. He has continued working on small things to get better - then we will get more goals and good performances.
"You can be angry about being a sub but the only way you can get back in is by proving you deserve to play, like Leigh did tonight.
"You also have to think as a team. Sometimes you're on the bench but will start at the weekend and make a big contribution, very important."
On the prospect of winning the title at Pittodrie on May 10, Deila added: "Hopefully we can win the title before that. We want to finish this as early as possible."
Griffith was one of four changes made by Deila but on this showing he is almost certain to start in Sunday's William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final against Inverness at Hampden Park.
Right-back Adam Matthews, winger Forrest, Commons and striker John Guidetti came in for Efe Ambrose, Stuart Armstrong, Gary Mackay-Steven and Griffiths.
Killie showed two changes with midfielder Paul Cairney and striker Lee Miller in for Chris Johnston and Alexei Eremenko, who were named among the substitutes.
When Emilio Izaguirre went through, on the half-hour mark, he cut the ball back for skipper Scott Brown but his unconvincing shot from 14 yards flew over.
Celtic went on the attack from the start of the second half but the visitors took a shock lead with their first real effort on goal.
Westlake fired in a drive which came off a Hoops body before nestling low behind the hitherto unemployed Craig Gordon.
The Parkhead side laid siege to the Killie goal and in the 58th minute Commons fired home from the edge of the box.
Griffiths immediately replaced Forrest and headed the Hoops' second in the 66th minute.
Griffiths made it 3-1 in the 80th minute, thundering in a shot from 25 yards which struck the post before hitting the net.
He completed his impressive treble with five minutes left.
Celtic: Gordon, Matthews, Denayer, van Dijk, Izaguirre, Brown, Biton, Commons (Armstrong 81), Johansen (Mackay-Steven 82), Forrest (Griffiths 51), Guidetti.
Goals: Brown 58, Griffiths 66, 80, 85
Subs not used: Ambrose, Stokes, Zaluska, McGregor.
Kilmarnock: Samson, O'Hara, Ashcroft, Syme, Westlake, Cairney (Eccleston 81), Slater, Clingan, Obadeyi, Magennis (McKenzie 74), Miller.
Subs not used: Barbour, Johnston, Brennan, Eremenko, Kiltie.
Goal: Westlake 50
Man of the match: Griffiths
Referee: Crawford Allan (Scotland)