In the end, it took six minutes for Celtic to revive themselves. Trailing 3-0 at the break, a burst of energy, desire and belief brought three goals, a renewed spirit and, for Neil Lennon (pictured), a sense of relief. But while there is an immediate feeling of self-worth in such a storming recovery, the Celtic manager will still be troubled by the majority of this performance.
Celtic were bereft, as a slick and at times accomplished Kilmarnock team raced into a commanding lead by half-time. Having lost their previous league game to Hearts, as well as the Old Firm fixture at Ibrox last month, this was Celtic suddenly confronted with their own distress. They were, at that moment, filled only with doubt.
"I was really angry at half-time," admitted Lennon. "I said to myself, 'this is your biggest test'. We were poor, but I was proud of the performance in the second half. It was two points dropped, though."
Lennon might have felt condemned when Anthony Stokes failed to convert Cha Du-Ri's cross from only two yards out, the striker sending the ball over the bar. Once Kilmarnock scored – after Paul Heffernan pulled away from Daniel Majstorovic before feeding Dean Shiels inside the area for a crisp finish – Celtic were looking bedraggled.
The hope for them, even then in the 27th minute, was to survive until half-time to regroup. Instead, a lively Kilmarnock sensed their alarm, and set about their frail nerves.
Shiels returned the favour to Heffernan by crossing for the striker - who seemed fractionally offside – to score. Then on the cusp of half-time, Charlie Mulgrew was short with a passback and James Fowler lobbed Fraser Forster, the Celtic goalkeeper.
Kilmarnock were, understandably, more circumspect after the break, but they seemed at ease until Stokes curled home a free-kick from 30 yards out with just 17 minutes remaining.
The goal acted like a spur to Celtic and the striker himself. Two minutes later, Stokes gathered the ball 25 yards out and battered a low hard shot into the corner of the net.
On this surge of momentum, the visitors equalised when Ki Sung-Yeung sent a free-kick deep into the penalty area, Majstorovic headed it down and Mulgrew scored with a header. There was still time for Heffernan to miss with a header from close range but, by then, the drama was all played out.
Kilmarnock (4-2-3-1): Jaakkola; Pursehouse, Sissoko, Pascali, McKeown; Fowler, Bujis, Kelly; Harkins, Shiels; Heffernan.
Celtic (4-4-2): Forster; Cha (El Kaddouri, 68), Majstorovic, Mulgrew, Matthews; Forrest, Kayal (Wanyama, 46), Ki, Ledley; Hoper (Bangura, 46), Stokes.
Referee: Steve Conroy.
Man of the match: Dean Shiels (Kilmarnock)
Match rating: 8/10Reuse content