Chris Burke keeps his cool from the spot as Kilmarnock hold below-par Celtic to a draw

Roddy Forsyth
·4 min read
Chris Burke of Kilmarnock celebrates with his team-mates as they snatch a draw against Celtic - GETTY IMAGES
Chris Burke of Kilmarnock celebrates with his team-mates as they snatch a draw against Celtic - GETTY IMAGES
  • Kilmarnock 1 Celtic 1

The absence of spectators has been much lamented throughout sport but Celtic’s supporters could be excused relief at their exile from Rugby Park, where their heroes delivered a rare substandard performance to shed two points to Kilmarnock. Despite taking an early lead through Ryan Christie, Celtic were pegged back by a Chris Burke penalty after Nicke Kambala had spooked Christopher Jullien.

On a day when the singularity of an already weird football season was compounded by word that the new leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party was running the line at Rangers v St Mirren at Ibrox, Celtic aimed to impose familiarity by emphasising their credentials for a 10th successive league title with a victory in Ayrshire.

Recent history, in the form of three 3-1 wins for the Hoops when these teams met last season, favoured the visitors, but the first half did not follow the script.

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True, Celtic went ahead in a fashion that must have piqued the Killie manager, Alex Dyer, who had made one change to the side that lost to Hibernian at Easter Road when he replaced Greg Kiltie with Gary Dicker. It was Dicker who - at the cost of a caution - fouled Odsonne Edouard for a free-kick 10 minutes into the proceedings.

The location was distant from the target but, although Christie’s delivery was characteristically precise, Danny Rogers looked slow to read its trajectory as the ball curled past him, almost in slow motion. If Kilmarnock were discomfited by falling behind so early, they did not show it, mainly because they had the option of a simple out ball to Kabamba.

Ryan Christie opens the scoring for Celtic - GETTY IMAGES
Ryan Christie opens the scoring for Celtic - GETTY IMAGES

The Brent-born striker is not subtle but he was effective in disrupting Celtic’s centre-back pairing of Jullien and Kris Ajer. He had already placed one free header over the crossbar when he fastened on to possession inside the Celtic box and showed tidy skills under pressure from Scott Brown and Jullien, skipping inside the latter at the back post.

Jullien’s response was to yank the striker’s jersey in direct sight of the referee, who immediately signalled a penalty kick, which represented the first test for Vasilis Barkas, newly acquired from AEK Athens and who, on his debut, has replaced Scott Bain. As Chris Burke shaped to take the kick, the goalkeeper guessed its direction correctly but could not get a glove to the ball as it crossed the line just inside his left-hand post.

Chris Burke beats Celtic goalkeeper Vasilis Barkas from the penalty spot - GETTY IMAGES
Chris Burke beats Celtic goalkeeper Vasilis Barkas from the penalty spot - GETTY IMAGES

Kambala continued to generate menace throughout the first half, missing with another unopposed header, this time from a Ross Millen cross, but came closer five minutes before the break when he took on Ajer and Jullien once more, striking a deflected shot off the Frenchman and over Barkas but the goalkeeper was able to scramble back towards his goal and make the save.

Killie sustained an enforced change for the second half when the lively Rory McKenzie remained in the dressing room with a calf injury and was replaced by Brandon Haunstrup, but the home team’s momentum was not materially disrupted and midway through the second period Neil Lennon sent on Hatem Elhamed and Patryk Klimala for Jeremie Frimpong and Mohamed Elyounoussi as Celtic switched to a 3-5-2.

An empty Rugby Park as Kilmarnock host Celtic - REUTERS
An empty Rugby Park as Kilmarnock host Celtic - REUTERS

The change, plus Kilmarnock’s growing fatigue, led to a largely one-sided closing quarter hour but Alex Dyer’s defenders displayed diligence and fortitude to hold out for a merited draw, which will no doubt encourage Rangers’ hopes of interrupting their arch-foes’ formidable acquisition of honours.

Match details

Kilmarnock (4-2-3-1): Rogers; Millen, Broadfoot, Findlay, Waters; Tshibola, Power; Burke (Kiltie 85) Dicker, McKenzie (Haunstrup h-t); Kabamba.
Subs (unused): Lyle (g), McGowan, Dikamona, Brophy, Whitehall, El Makrini, Pinnock.
Booked: Dicker, Power.

Celtic (4-2-3-1): Barkas; Frimpong (Elhamed 66), Jullien, Ajer, Taylor (Bolingoli 85); Brown (Ntcham 80), McGregor; Forrest, Christie, Elyounoussi (Klimala 66); Edouard.
Subs (unused): Bain (g), Biton, Klimala, Soro, Robertson, Dembele.
Booked: Brown. 

Referee: Alan Muir.