Celtic 4 Kilmarnock 2: Celtic floating away without plugging leaks

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The Independent Football

Celtic may have atoned for their Scottish Cup defeat by Clyde last weekend but they squandered a two-goal lead, with Keane in defence, as Kilmarnock's vigour threatened to create another shock before Stephen McManus and Maciej Zurawski hit back with goals.

That allowed Strachan's side to keep a seven-point lead over Hearts at the top of the Scottish Premier League, but a porous defence remains the manager's biggest problem. The hurt from that humbling experience against Clyde six days earlier was visible as Celtic tore the visitors to shreds in the opening 17 minutes, with a remarkable display of one-touch football. The surprise was that it only yielded two goals. Stilian Petrov was central to both. The gifted Bulgarian midfielder drew a foul from Gary Wales after three minutes that allowed Shunsuke Nakamura to net his fourth of the season. The Japanese playmaker's trademark free-kick curled over the wall and dipped sharply to elude Alan Combe.

Kilmarnock tried to respond and they would have levelled the score had Colin Nish not been denied by Artur Boruc. That profligacy was punished in the 17th minute when Petrov's quick feet earned a penalty. He gathered a pass from Zurawski and was about to sidestep James Fowler when the midfielder's tackle brought him down. Shaun Maloney kept his composure to send Combe the wrong way.

Kilmarnock, however, refused to crumble. They cut the deficit just eight minutes later with a penalty of their own. Allan Johnston's pass sought out Nish, who was felled by a late tackle from McManus and Steven Naismith matched Maloney's ruthless finish. John Hartson almost restored Celtic's advantage before the interval but Combe beat the Welshman's shot aside.

However, Kilmarnock stoked Parkhead's anxiety when Danny Invincibile restored parity just six minutes into the second half. It was not a moment Keane will look back on fondly, as the former Manchester United captain was caught in possession by the eager Naismith, allowing Garry Hay to sweep a cross for the tall Invincibile to rise above Ross Wallace and head beyond Boruc.

McManus though baled his team out within two minutes. Maloney's corner caused problems, Keane spun to fire in a shot which Combe parried and McManus pounced to stab in.

Yet, Celtic still wore their defensive vulnerability on their sleeves. Boruc fumbled a cross from Invincibile and had to thank Keane for stopping Nish equalising. It took a restoration of their two-goal cushion by Zurawski after 67 minutes to soothe Celtic's fans, with Wallace carving Kilmarnock open down the left and his cross being turned in by Zurawski, via the underside of the bar, although Combe furiously claimed it had not crossed the line.

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