Matchzone: Celtic (A)
Kilmarnock fell to the cinch Premiership holders in a 3-1 defeat at Celtic Park on Saturday 7th October 2023.
A spirited second half performance was marked by David Watson’s first goal for the club, before he was replaced by fellow academy graduate Aaron Brown who made his Kilmarnock first-team debut.
The club’s Penicillin inspired away kit was given a league debut on a wet afternoon in the East End of Glasgow. Derek McInnes made two changes to his starting 11, with Robbie Deas and David Watson handed the jerseys in place of Innes Cameron and the injured Kyle Magennis.
Killie were first to throw a ball into the box in the opening stages, but it was the hosts who were first to find the net. Kyogo thought that he had placed his side ahead with less than five minutes on the clock, only to be denied by the linesman’s flag having strayed two yards offside.
Both teams had early glimpses of goal in the opening quarter of an hour. Reo Hatate forced Will Dennis into the first of several saves: a comfortable gather warmed his hands, with a handful of eye-catching stops to follow.
At the Jock Stein Stand end, Kyle Vassell poked the ball wide of target after striding onto a Robbie Deas header; an early reminder of Killie’s own attacking threat, which would fully appear in the second period. Killie would enjoy a positive spell around the opposition box, before falling behind to a clinical finish.
Celtic moved in front on 22 minutes when Japan international Reo Hatate burst through the Killie defence before placing his strike low into Will Dennis’ bottom corner (1-0).
The home team stretched further ahead after 33 minutes, despite very strong appeals for offside. Luis Palma recovered possession deep in the Killie half before an attempted pass to Kyogo resulted in a fortunate rebound falling back at the feet of the Honduran, who capitalised through an unstoppable strike into the top corner (2-0).
Killie changed shape at half-time in order to turn the tide, with Liam Polworth joining the midfield in place of Robbie Deas who started on the left side of central defence.
The game looked to have gone for the visitors when referee Matthew MacDermid awarded Celtic a penalty after Reo Hatate went down inside the box with just under an hour played. The decision was upturned following a quick check of the VAR monitor: Hatate very lucky to escape a booking for simulation.
The Ayrshire side fought their way back into the match with 20 minutes to play, courtesy of David Watson’s first senior goal. A perfectly threaded ball from half-time substitute Liam Polworth played the 18-year-old through on goal, before a cool strike under the legs of Joe Hart halved the deficit (2-1).
Killie’s best chance to equalise came moments after young David Watson’s strike. Joe Wright’s header was narrowly headed off target, and quickly punished at the other end. A second Kilmarnock youth academy graduate to find the target, Greg Taylor restored Celtic’s two-goal advantage as he knocked in a corner at the back post with 8 minutes remaining (3-1).
Determined to make a battle of the final stage, Killie made a quadruple substitution to inject energy. Having impressed for the development squad already this season, 18-year-old academy graduate Aaron Brown was called upon to make his first-team debut – 9 years after joining the club.
Kyle Vassell came millimeters from pulling one back after connecting with a cross inside the six-yard box, but the hosts would see the game out to carry momentum into the October international break.
Result: Celtic 3-1 Kilmarnock
Celtic lineup: Hart, Johnston, Taylor, Scales, Palma (Forrest 73), Kyogo (Oh 88), Carter-Vickers (Phillips 73), O’Riley (Holm 85), Maeda (Yang 89), Hatate, McGregor.
Kilmarnock lineup: Dennis, Mayo, Wright, Deas (Polworth 45), Findlay, Ndaba, Lyons, Watson (Brown 88), Armstrong (Cameron 88), Kennedy (Dallas 88), Vassell (Murray 88).
You can listen to the manager’s post-match interview – HERE.
Check out the image gallery below, courtesy of club photographer Ross MacKenzie.