Celtic retain title with dominant display at Kilmarnock

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Celtic retain title with dominant display at Kilmarnock

Celtic clinched their third successive Premiership title in style with a dominant display as they beat Kilmarnock 5-0 at Rugby Park.

The Hoops, who needed just one point to wrap things up, made the perfect start as Adam Idah opened the scoring in the fifth minute.

Daizen Maeda (12) slotted home Celtic’s second, with James Forrest (35) adding a third before the break as Kilmarnock struggled to contain a side they had beaten twice in Ayrshire already this season.

Matt O’Riley (51 and 71) then scored either side of Danny Armstrong’s disallowed effort for Killie as Brendan Rodgers delivered the title in his first season back in Scottish football.

They will lift the trophy after their final game of the Premiership season against St Mirren on Saturday, while Kilmarnock will end the season in fourth with European football secured.

How Celtic wrapped up another title with a game to spare

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Jubilant scenes in the Celtic dressing room after they retained the Scottish Premiership

The date and venue of Celtic’s triumph was significant. The away fans unveiled a huge banner of Tommy Burns before the game on the 16th anniversary of the death of the former Hoops and Killie player and manager, and the whole ground joined in a minute’s applause.

Rugby Park was also where Rodgers saw his perfect Scottish knockout record end in August last year when Celtic crashed out of the League Cup. Celtic had also lost in Ayrshire in the league as well as drawing at home to Killie in February, a result which allowed Rangers to move top of the league after trailing by seven points following seven matches.

With key players back fit, Celtic have come good when it mattered, accumulating 22 points from eight games to take full advantage of their opponents’ slump in form in mid-April. The one draw came at Ibrox.

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Adam Idah with the early goal for Celtic against Kilmarnock

They continued their impressive form in Ayrshire, although their fifth-minute opener had more than a touch of controversy as Killie felt play should have been stopped to allow treatment to Robbie Deas, who took Idah’s arm to the face 10 yards inside his own half.

The Irishman broke forward and fed O’Riley on the right before continuing his run and knocking home the midfielder’s ball across the face of goal.

Deas required treatment while the VAR check was ongoing, but referee Don Robertson was not called to his monitor.

Celtic doubled their lead when Maeda burst into the six-yard box to convert Alistair Johnston’s cutback after Reo Hatate had opened up the home defence.

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What a start for Celtic! Daizen Maeda puts Celtic two up

The visitors were in the mood to finish off the job. Idah saw a strike saved and both Forrest and Liam Scales came close from outside the box.

Killie’s task could have been greater when Liam Donnelly scythed down Hatate. The midfielder had been fortunate to escape a booking for pulling O’Riley back earlier and would have been relieved to see the yellow card this time.

Celtic did not need any numerical advantage though and they went three ahead in the 35th minute. Idah played Maeda in behind and Forrest showed good awareness to meet the Japan international’s low cross and sidefoot the ball home.

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Celtic are on their way to another league title as James Forrest makes it three

Kieran O’Hara saved from Idah and O’Riley before the interval brought brief respite for Killie.

But there was nothing the goalkeeper could do to stop O’Riley curling a powerful shot into the top corner from 18 yards in the 51st minute.

Killie winger Armstrong netted an equally impressive strike two minutes later but the goal was disallowed for an earlier offside.

The home side continued to attempt to give their supporters something to cheer – on top of their fourth-placed finish and European qualification, and Matty Kennedy headed against the bar.

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Matt O’Riley scores Celtic’s fourth goal with a stunning effort

But O’Riley slotted home Celtic’s fifth in the 71st minute after being teed up by substitute Nicolas Kuhn.

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O’Riley’s second goal of the night makes it five for Celtic

The visiting supporters were lapping it up and they reprised a song very rarely heard since Rodgers left suddenly for Leicester in February 2019, hailing their manager for “coming home to lead the green and white”.

It was surely a significant personal moment for the 51-year-old, whose return last summer was met with a mixed reception.

A Scottish Cup final win over Rangers a week on Saturday would further mend the relationship.

Rodgers: This one feels special

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Brendan Rodgers said that this title win feels special for his players and praised their performance against Kilmarnock

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers told Sky Sports:

“Obviously every time you win a league title it feels great but this one definitely feels something special after everything we’ve been through this season and the challenges we’ve had.

“Also how we finished it because that performance was absolutely incredible. Everything I’d want in a team, with technique and speed and power, I thought our football was immense.

“The hunger in the team looked like we were at the beginning of the season, not at the end and that was against a really good side who don’t concede many goals.

“So pleased for the players because there’s been a lot of negativity around them this season but they stayed with it and kept believing.”

What’s next?

Celtic’s final Scottish Premiership match of the season is at home to St Mirren on Saturday, live on Sky Sports. Kilmarnock are at Dundee.

Both games kick off at 12.30pm.

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