12 Aug Kilmarnock 2-2 Celtic: Higginbotham punishes sloppy Hoops
Nir Bitton’s thunderbolt was not enough to give Celtic victory after a last-minute penalty from Kallum Higginbotham rescued a huge point for Kilmarnock.
Leigh Griffiths opened the scoring after just two minutes but after a spell of dominance from the visitors, Josh Magennis equalised for the hosts.
Bitton then sent a powerful effort into the top corner from distance which looked as if it would be enough for the Scottish champions.
However, Higginbotham levelled the scores with a cheeky panenka penalty after Emilio Izaguirre had brought down Greg Kiltie in the box.
That converted kick gave Killie their first point of the season to take some of the pressure off boss Gary Locke, while it was a perhaps a timely reminder to the Hoops particularly after John Collins’ comments that Scottish Premiership sides can punish the champions if they are not at their best.
The early pattern of play suggested that this would be a comfortable night for Celtic and it wasn’t long before they took the lead.
Kris Commons found Griffiths with a ball over the top in behind the Killie defence and slotted under Jamie MacDonald in goal.
That set the tone for the opening 25 minutes as Celtic pummelled the hosts. Their movement and passing was too quick and clever and it created plenty of openings as Commons, Tom Rogic and Griffiths all forced the Killie goalkeeper into action.
At the other end, Van Dijk’s biggest test this Scottish Premiership season was seemingly being paired with the erratic Efe Ambrose.
The partnership was found wanting when Rory McKenzie sliced open the defence but Magennis lacked the composure to punish the sloppy defending, blazing high and wide.
Killie grew in confidence and Gordon showed great reactions to deny Lee Ashcroft’s header from close range.
Desperate last-ditch defending at the other end prevented the hosts from falling further behind when Rogic was thwarted soon after.
That intervention was to prove invaluable for Gary Locke’s side as they found an equaliser.
Darryl Westlake delivered a teasing ball into the area and Magennis stole a yard on Ambrose to guide the ball beyond Gordon, atoning for his earlier miss.
Celtic’s defensive frailties must have been a concern for boss Ronny Deila before their vital Champions League qualifier against Malmo but going forward they continued to look threatening.
James Forrest, in particular, was irrepressible at times and it was his darting run which provided Griffiths with the opportunity early in the second half to restore Celtic’s lead but he didn’t connect properly.
Unfortunately for Kilmarnock, that criticism couldn’t be levelled at Bitton, who, moments later, sent a crashing drive from 30 yards into the top corner to leave MacDonald clutching at thin air.
Griffiths looked to add a third with an acrobatic effort which drifted agonisingly wide before substitute Charlie Mulgrew thought he’d won it for the Hoops but his goal was chalked off for offside.
Celtic’s defensive sloppiness was underlined towards the end when Izaguirre brought down Kiltie in the box and Higginbotham cheekily chipped the penalty down the middle to level the scores.