Mikael Lustig’s first goal of the season put Celtic three up

Celtic responded to talk of a title challenge by Kilmarnock by annihilating Steve Clarke’s side 5-1 to return to the top of the Scottish Premiership.

The Ayrshire club led the division at kick-off but conceded four first-half goals as Celtic flexed their muscles.

James Forrest, Odsonne Edouard, Mikael Lustig and Ryan Christie scored for the champions as the visitors folded.

Eammon Brophy pulled one back after Rory McKenzie was tripped, but Forrest added his second to complete the rout.

Kilmarnock slip to second place and trail Celtic by two points, having played two games more. They will drop to third on Sunday should Rangers avoid defeat at Dundee.

Champions exert authority in devastating opening

Kilmarnock had conceded just 12 goals in 16 games this term, but shipped four in 45 minutes as Celtic exerted their authority from the off. The tempo was high as the champions flew at their visitors.

Emilio Izaguirre – in for Kieran Tierney, who had a slight groin injury – swung in a cross for Forrest to open the scoring and the goal seemed to energise the fans and Celtic never looked back.

They made it 2-0 as Tom Rogic beautifully cushioned a through ball into the path of Edouard, who made no mistake.

Lustig converted from close range to make it 3-0, before Christie put the seal on an outstanding first-half performance with a sublime free kick to make it 4-0 at the break.

How disappointing this must have all been for a Kilmarnock side that had dominated the headlines after taking top spot in the Premiership midweek.

Only the most optimistic Rugby Park fan would have dreamed of a comeback, even when Brophy scored from the penalty spot to make it 4-1 after McKenzie was felled by Filip Benkovic.

But in truth, Celtic could have won by more. Forrest made it 5-1, hit a post, and had a couple of penalty claims. Scott Sinclair also hit the woodwork as Celtic crushed the Kilmarnock uprising.

Ryan Christie’s free-kick was his seventh goal in 10 games

‘Celtic show up when it matters again’ – analysis

Take nothing away from Celtic, they were superb. But this result also throws into focus just how well Kilmarnock have done in winning two and drawing two of the four previous games between the sides. It was also a reminder of just how difficult it will be for any club to challenge the established order of power in Scottish football.

This underlined the sense that Celtic really do show up when it matters. Rodgers will be hoping that now happens again on Thursday in the crucial Europa League match against RB Salzburg.

The only crumb of comfort for Kilmarnock is that their upcoming fixtures offer a chance to get things back on track – all four games before the winter break come against sides in the bottom half of the table.

‘It was an outstanding team performance’ – reaction

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers: “We knew we had to play at a high level to get a result. The players deserve a huge amount of credit because of the quality of the football we played.

“When we got the other side of Kilmarnock’s midfield our quality in the wide areas and in the centre got us some fantastic goals. All in all it was an outstanding team performance.

Kilmarnock manager Steve Clarke: “I thought Celtic were terrific first half. They were sharper than us and a little bit brighter.

“A big factor in that would be that they had seven fresh players all rested during the week and good to go and I’m flogging my back four. Now we can give them a rest and get ready to go again.”

Tiredness cost Kilmarnock – Clarke

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