Kilmarnock kicked off their 2020 Premiership campaign with a 3-1 loss at home to Celtic, despite new recruit Nicke Kabamba netting his first league goal for the club.
The result extends the Ayrshire side’s wait for a league win to eight matches but they will take encouragement from what was Alex Dyer’s first league match as permanent boss.
The first-half was a mainly Celtic led affair with a couple of real Killie opportunities sprinkled in.
First, Jozo Simunovic forced Killie keeper Jan Koprivec into a stunning diving save with a dipping header.
The new recruit was at it a few minutes later to hold on to a powerful Leigh Griffiths header, while Odsonne Edouard shot wide when it looked easier to score following some confusion at the back.
Confusion was the order of the day in the opposite box a few minutes later as the hosts somehow failed to capitalise.
Robust forward Kabamba really should have netted after a terrific cross from assist-king Chris Burke, but he failed to get any purchase on the ball.
The same could be said near the end of the half when Niko Hamalainen’s delicious cross somehow evaded everything in its path, including the back of the net.
That big Killie chance arrived after Edouard had given Celtic the lead with a typically neat finish.
The Frenchman’s feet were quick and his finish low as he put the visitors into a lead that they deserved given the balance of play.
Callum McGregor also missed a golden chance for the Hoops in the first-half while, after the break, Kabamba curled just wide – via a deflection.
Killie given brief second-half hope
Griffiths then registered his second of the year. The Killie support wanted an offside and Koprivec should certainly have done better with his attempt to keep it out the net, as Celtic took a real stranglehold on the game.
The Hoops should really have put the game out of sight in the following 20 minutes with Edouard and Olivier Ntcham going close.
Then came a lifeline for the hosts as Kabamba nodded in Alan Power’s goalbound shot – giving Fraser Forster absolutely no chance.
The finish was one of a prolific scorer for the January recruit and Dyer will hope that is just a sign of what’s to come in the coming months.
Things really threatened to get interesting for a period following the Killie goal as the Rugby Park faithful really got into the game.
Their hope was to be short lived though as Jullien netted the clinching third with a bullet header from a Leigh Griffiths corner. It was a margin of victory that the visitors deserved truth be told.
Substitute Mikey Johnston struck wide just after coming on while Eamonn Brophy fired Killie’s final attempt of the match on goal – forcing Forster into a solid save.