08 Apr Celtic bandwagon rolls on
Boss Brendan Rodgers celebrated his new Celtic deal by watching his Ladbrokes Premiership champions sweep Kilmarnock away in a 3-1 win.
The Northern Irishman signed an improved contract on Friday which takes him to 2021 and in the 22nd minute of a Parkhead procession in-form midfielder Stuart Armstrong fired in the opener with a 25-yard drive.
The Rugby Park side emerged from their defensive shell to grab an unlikely leveller in the 65th minute through wide-man Jordan Jones.
However, Scott Sinclair restored Celtic’s lead from close range six minutes later with his 23rd goal of the season and James Forrest added a third.
Celtic remain unbeaten domestically after 39 games – 32 in the league – and moved on to 90 points with some ease.
It was a difficult and exhausting afternoon for interim-manager Lee McCulloch’s side who lost out to Partick Thistle for a top-six place.
As expected after leaving them out of the 1-1 draw with Partick Thistle in midweek, Rodgers returned Scotland players Kieran Tierney, Scott Brown, Forrest and Armstrong to the team, along with Belgian defender Dedryck Boyata.
Moussa Dembele was on the bench after recovering from a hamstring problem which kept him out of the Hoops’ previous two matches.
Kilmarnock’s loanee defender Kristoffer Ajer was not allowed to play against his parent club as Martin Smith, Mark Roberts and Scott Boyd came back into the Ayrshire side.
Killie gave Celtic a guard of honour before the game to acknowledge the Hoops’ sixth successive title win.
They then spent the first-half repelling wave after wave of attacks from the men in green and white, succumbing to Armstrong’s 25 yard drive midway through.
Before that, Sinclair, Callum McGregor and Brown all had efforts as the Rugby Park men defended with some desperation.
Armstrong, the league sponsors’ player of the month for March, had tried his luck with a left-footed drive which flew over the bar moments before he fired into the bottom corner from a similar distance with his other foot for his 14th of the season.
Kilmarnock were all but paralysed by Celtic’s grip on the game.
A last-gasp tackle from Killie defender Iain Wilson blocked McGregor’s close-range shot before Tierney’s angled-shot narrowly missed the far post.
Jones brushed off the attention of Brown in the 42nd minute before firing over the bar from 25 yards but that was about it as far as Killie’s threat was concerned.
The second-half ran along similar lines after Sinclair headed a Patrick Roberts cross past the post three minutes after the restart.
Celtic maintained almost total control but the visitors equalised in a rare attack.
Striker Conor Sammon drifted left to take possession and when he picked out Jones, his deflected strike from 14 yards ended up behind Parkhead keeper Craig Gordon.
However, in the 71st minute all was well again with the Hoops faithful.
Armstrong’s free-kick to the back post was headed across by Boyata and Roberts returned the ball for Sinclair to finish from three yards out.
Immediately Dembele and Tom Rogic replaced Roberts and Callum McGregor respectively and moments later, after the French striker’s shot was deflected on to the post, Forrest headed in the rebound to give the scoreline more credence.