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Superior Celtic close the gap on league leaders Aberdeen

Kilmarnock 0 - Celtic 2

By Ronnie Esplin

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 for a winter break in Gran Canaria this 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.

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.

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 and Josh Magennis's header drew a fine save from Hoops keeper Craig Gordon.

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.

The Parkhead side remained in control, albeit there was a fright in the 52nd minute when Jamie Hamill's low drive from 25 yards sped just past the post.

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

The goal knocked the stuffing out of Killie and the Hoops saw out the win, reminding Aberdeen just why they are champions.

Kilmarnock: Samson, Barbour, Ashcroft, Connolly, Chantler, McKenzie, O'Hara, Hamill (Pascali 80), Johnston (Muirhead 35), Eremenko, Magennis. Subs Not Used: Cairney, Brennan, Syme, Splaine, Hawkshaw.

Booked: Connolly, Hamill.

Celtic: Gordon, Matthews (Fisher 75), Ambrose, van Dijk, Izaguirre, Brown, Biton, Johansen, Commons, Henderson (McGregor 85), Scepovic (Guidetti 82). Subs Not Used: Zaluska, Griffiths, O'Connell, Thomson.

Booked: Commons,Izaguirre.

Goals: Izaguirre 36, Scepovic 72

Man of the match: Commons

Match rating: 6/10

Referee: Kevin Clancy

Belfast Telegraph


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