Kilmarnock made it uncomfortable for Celtic as the visitors narrowly won to go eight points clear of second-placed Rangers.
The match was very choppy and not good on the eyes, as the artificial turf didn’t help, but Celtic started decently but failed to score in the opening 25 minutes.
Kilmarnock slowly started to gain in confidence at Rugby Park and ended the first half with a flurry of corner kicks that they failed to capitalise on after Scott Brown was put into the book for a challenge in the 38th minute.
Celtic’s frustration continued into the second half, where they waited until the 75th minute when they got a decision to go their way. Kirk Broadfoot went studs up into Brown, prompting referee Bobby Madden to show a seemingly surprised Broadfoot a red card appropriately.
Brendan Rodgers’ men finally broke through after the ball popped out to Brown from Boyata’s knock-down header in the 90th minute. The captain connected well, but it appeared that it might have been going over until it connected with Alex Bruce’s arm, taking it into the goal.
Brown could not resist but to celebrate with the away support, which prompted a second yellow for the Scotsman, seeing him off for the remaining minutes.
Celtic are now motoring towards an eighth consecutive title, but will now refocus on Thursday’s monumental task of overturning a two-goal deficit at Valencia.
Here are our four findings from the win at Kilmarnock.
Is Toljan really an upgrade?
These past two performances from Jeremy Toljan have been dreadful. He’s not providing anything that Mikael Lustig doesn’t do. The only difference between the two is their age.
Johnny Hayes was poor as well, as the pair butchered an incredible amount of crosses. The plastic pitch didn’t help, but football is a game of adjustments, and Toljan failed to adjust.
The Champions' Grind
Winning seven consecutive Scottish Premiership titles don’t come easy. Persistence and confidence were needed throughout this historic run. Celtic showed that today.
They put in a solid effort in breaking down the Kilmarnock defence. Scott Brown led by example, as usual, by finding a way into the box multiple times late on. The hunger is still there for the re-energised captain.
Celtic ground out a tough result when the pressure was very much on them after Rangers and Aberdeen both dropped points this weekend.
Kilmarnock didn’t shy away
Kilmarnock entered the match with a game plan set up by Steve Clarke that was nearly worked to perfection. They got plenty of men behind the ball and limited Celtic’s chances. Odsonne Edouard really struggled to find open space along with James Forrest.
Kilmarnock were mightily unlucky that a poor challenge from Kirk Broadfoot virtually doomed them in the end. Clarke must be proud of his men for executing the game plan so well.
A huge slice of luck at the end was the difference. Kilmarnock truly did deserve a point after the 90 minutes.
Spark for Valencia?
This might spark Celtic to do the impossible and overturn the two-goal deficit in Spain on Thursday. Perhaps Valencia might be a bit overconfident, which will open the door for the Hoops to steal the show.
A two-goal lead is the most dangerous lead to have. You think you’re comfortable, but if Celtic get one goal, it only takes another to tie it up with every bit of momentum on the Scottish team’s side.
Brendan Rodgers must go into this game with confidence and realise that the Europa League isn’t done yet