Celtic responded to Gordon Strachan's demand to embrace the pressure of the title race by cutting the gap on Rangers at the top of the Scottish Premier League to a point, ahead of the leaders' trip to Inverness today.
Ignore the scoreline. This was a contest that the champions dominated, and only an inspired performance from the Kilmarnock goalkeeper, Alan Combe, prevented a rout. Ironically, it took an own goal, from Martyn Corrigan in the 64th minute, to beat Combe.
Strachan had to alter his plans after barely quarter of an hour, when both Andreas Hinkel and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink succumbed to injury. The German right-back, making his SPL debut, suffered a thigh strain, while Vennegoor of Hesselink left the pitch with blood streaming from a head wound.
Celtic brought on Derek Riordan and Chris Killen, who contributed to a first-half procession towards Combe's goal. That the affair remained goalless was due to the Kilmarnock goalkeeper, who produced a series of remarkable saves.
Combe had already denied Scott McDonald after just 10 minutes by touching the forward's raking shot wide and then came up with a less stylish, but equally effective, stop as he bravely blocked McDonald 10 minutes later after Shunsuke Nakamura's free-kick caused havoc.
Killen was next to see Combe keep his effort out and the substitute swiftly moved out to the left to set up another chance for McDonald, finding the Australian with a low cross, but again Combe sprang to his right to touch the ball wide of the post.
Strachan could not be too upset at his team in the dressing room and the visitors knew they were in for an equally fierce period of scrutiny in the second half. Indeed, there was no change in the pattern of play.
McDonald thought he had beaten Combe when he met Nakamura's corner but again the Kilmarnock goalkeeper beat the header away. McDonald felt he was denied a penalty soon after, after his darting dribble into the box was halted by two Kilmar-nock defenders but the referee, Mike McCurry, booked the striker for dissent.
That fired up the crowd and prompted Strachan's team to the breakthrough. Paul Hartley's cross was laid off for Scott Brown by McDonald and the midfielder's fierce shot was turned past Combe by Corrigan – with Killen on his shoulder – from six yards.Reuse content