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Celtic’s title hopes dented by Kilmarnock

Celtic suffered another slip up against Kilmarnock to hand Rangers the chance to claim an outright lead in the Scottish Premiership title race.

With the Hoops top only on goals scored, they knew they had to secure a victory to put the pressure on Rangers when they face St Johnstone on Sunday.

But Kilmarnock, who won the last league meeting having already knocked Celtic out of the Viaplay Cup, has other plans as they look to secure a top-six finish.

Kyogo Furuhashi managed to break their defence to head in the opener in the first half, but the hosts were wasteful and give Derek McInnes’ side hope.

David Watson took advantage deep into added time, with his header allowed to stand after a VAR check.

The draw means Celtic could lose their Scottish Premiership lead for the first time this season, while Killie remain fourth on 37 points.

Celtic stunned by Kilmarnock again

Kilmarnock's David Watson equalised in stoppage time
Image: Kilmarnock’s David Watson equalised in stoppage time

Having already beaten their hosts twice at Rugby Park this season, Kilmarnock’s late goal came from one of 12 shots at goal.

Joe Hart twice saved well from Liam Donnelly and Killie manager Derek McInnes was frustrated his side did not get a penalty for Stephen Welsh’s sliding challenge on Marley Watkins.

Neither referee John Beaton nor video assistant Willie Collum were convinced by Watkins’ appeals but it looked a risky challenge.

Team news

Celtic had left-back Greg Taylor back from a calf injury while Israel international Liel Abada was still absent.

Derek McInnes make four changes for Kilmarnock as Kyle Vassell returned to the starting XI.

Watkins saw a header saved from an early chance.

Adam Idah was showing some good touches up front for Celtic and one flick paved the way for Callum McGregor to play in Luis Palma. The winger had options but chose to cut inside and goalkeeper Will Dennis came out to block his shot.

The breakthrough came in the 32nd minute when Anthony Ralston ended a spell of tight passing as he noticed Furuhashi peeling off Joe Wright to the back post. The right-back floated a perfect ball for the Japanese striker to loop the ball home.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - FEBRUARY 17: Celtic's Kyogo Furuhashi scores to make it 1-0 during a cinch Premiership match between Celtic and Kilmarnock at Celtic Park, on February 17, 2024, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)
Image: Kyogo Furuhashi headed Celtic in front

Killie responded well and twice threatened following Danny Armstrong crosses. Hart stopped Donnelly’s close-range header and then Watkins went down clutching his ankle after Welsh’s sliding penalty-box challenge.

Referee John Beaton waved play on and the game continued after a short delay following the next stoppage.

Celtic had chances to ease the tension. McGregor shot over and Matt O’Riley was denied twice by Dennis and once by Corrie Ndaba’s goalline clearance.

Taylor was replaced by Bernabei on the hour mark in what looked a pre-planned move.

Killie sensed there was something to take from the game with Armstrong at the centre of much of their attacking play.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - FEBRUARY 17: Celtic's Joe Hart catches the ball during a cinch Premiership match between Celtic and Kilmarnock at Celtic Park, on February 17, 2024, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)
Image: Joe Hart pulled off vital saves

Donnelly met the winger’s inswinging free-kick and powered a header which Hart pushed over. Armstrong then had a chance of his own but mis-kicked a shot wide when Ndaba’s cross found him beyond the back post.

Celtic got back on top but substitute Paulo Bernardo shot over from 14 yards after getting the chance to make it a more comfortable final 10 minutes.

The home crowd grew audibly more anxious and Watson missed from close range before getting space at the back post to head into the bottom corner.

Celtic threw men forward but it was the visitors who came closer to a last-gasp winner when Murray broke and fired a low shot which Hart got down to save.

What’s next?

Sunday 25th February 11:00am Kick off 12:00pm

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Celtic’s next Scottish Premiership game is away to Motherwell on February 25, live on Sky Sports. Kick-off 12pm.

Kilmarnock are at home to Aberdeen on February 24. Kick-off 3pm.

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