A HOLLYWOOD screenwriter couldn’t have scripted events at Parkhead on Saturday any better – for the No.5 to head home the winner with 67 minutes on the clock on the very day that Celtic honoured Billy McNeill was beyond perfect.

The Jozo Simunovic goal that clinched an emotional 1-0 win over Kilmarnock means the Glasgow club are now nine points clear of their city rivals Rangers with three Ladbrokes Premiership games remaining.

Neil Lennon’s men can now be crowned Scottish champions for the eighth consecutive season if they draw with or defeat Aberdeen at Pittodrie this weekend. But what else did we learn from another remarkable afternoon in the East End?


The Simunovic goal overshadowed the fact this was another laboured Celtic showing. The double treble winners are performing, by their own high standards anyway, poorly just now. Only some slipshod Kilmarnock finishing and an inspired performance by goalkeeper Scott Bain, who produced vital saves in both halves, prevented the visitors from taking at least a point.

The Premiership will be wrapped up at some stage soon. But major surgery is clearly required in the close season. The home team were lacking in energy and invention. Their subdued displays at the moment are reminiscent of the final days of the Martin O’Neill era when far too much had been asked of the same group of players.

The situation that Lennon has found himself in – working with another man’s group of players and wary of changing a winning formula and stamping his own identity on the side – is obviously far from ideal. But they are also running on empty and desperately need an injection of quality and freshness.

Daniel Bachmann, unlike Bain, had a quiet afternoon. In fact, the block he produced from a close-range Callum McGregor strike shortly before the goal was the only time the Austrian was really tested.


Brendan Rodgers recognised that his charges needed help during a difficult first half of the 2018/19 campaign. He brought in Oliver Burke, Jeremy Toljan and Timothy Weah on loan in the January transfer window. Their play when action resumed after the winter shutdown was much improved thanks in no small part to the contribution of that trio, Burke and Weah especially.

However, their lack of game time under Lennon has been noticeable. Weah was left out of the squad completely on Saturday. Perhaps giving the loanees, or youngsters Ewan Henderson and Mikey Johnston, a run-out in the coming weeks will give them a lift.

They will certainly need to raise their game if they want to beat Hearts in the William Hill Scottish Cup final on May 25 and complete an unprecedented triple treble.


It wasn’t just the centre half’s goal at Kilmarnock at the weekend that caught the attention. The Croatian has been in inspired form since Lennon took over on an interim basis. In fact, he has often been Celtic’s best performer under the Northern Irishman. He has helped his side record five consecutive clean sheets.

The Scottish champions will need to bring in a new centre half when Dedryck Boyata departs next month. But in Kristoffer Ajer and Simunovic they appear to have a central defensive partnership they can rely on both domestically and in Europe for some time to come. Remember, the pair are just 21 and 24 respectively.

If Simunovic, whose goal against Kilmarnock was his first in over two years and only his third since moving to Scotland four years ago, can stay fit and contribute more going forward, at set pieces especially, in future then Celtic will have some player on their hands.


For the Rugby Park club to acquit themselves so well at Parkhead when they were missing both Kirk Broadfoot and Stuart Findlay, their first-choice centre backs who were suspended, and Youssouf Mulumbu, the midfielder who was unable to face his parent club, was of huge credit to their manager.

The Ayrshire outfit defended superbly. But they didn’t just put 10 men behind the ball and seek to grab a goal on the counter attack. They lined up with a 4-4-2 formation and created by far the better scoring opportunities over the course of the 90 minutes.

Clarke has been linked with the Scotland vacancy and the position at Celtic in recent weeks. But a return to England, where he has worked extensively in the past and where his wife and family are still based, remains more likely. Speculation about him joining Fulham persists. Whatever happens, Kilmarnock will be unable to retain his services.


The tributes to Celtic’s legendary European Cup-winning captain, who passed away on Easter Monday after a lengthy illness, were well done. Having the surviving members of the Lisbon Lions, Bertie Auld, John Clark, Jim Craig, John Fallon, Charlie Gallagher and Bobby Lennox, in attendance was fitting. The Green Brigade display before kick-off, too, was breathtaking.

Cesar would have been touched.