HISTORICAL Killie grab first Parkhead win in 57 years; Celts defending makees mockery of Barca heroics Diablical Celts defending makes mockery of Barca heroics.
It's one thing being bold enough to mix it with the likes of Messi, Xavi and Iniesta on their own patch. But to walk back into the home dressing room after putting on a performance as shabby as this one? Knowing Neil Lennon was waiting for them inside? Now that's taking bravery to a whole new level. Or was it just foolishness? Certainly it required a special kind of courage because Lennon is not the kind of manager you want to make look bad. And yet that's exactly what his players did when they were taken apart by an excellent Kilmarnock side in just about every possible department.
But this was no typical defeat, if such a thing exists after a record stretching back some 57 years to the last time a team from Rugby Park got out of Glasgow's East End with a win. This time, unlike that big night in Barca, Celtic did not go down fighting, which is the very least Lennon demands of anyone pulling on a hooped shirt.
They went down without a whimper. So tamely in fact that afterwards Lennon himself conceded this might have been the worst performance of his time at the helm.
The manager was also prepared, in public at least, to accept the responsibility, admitting that it was his tactical decisions and team selection which contributed mostly to Celtic's problems.
In the privacy of the changing room, however, it is difficult to imagine that the man in charge was quite so sympathetic towards those players who failed to carry out their orders with any kind of urgency or professionalism.
No, it's likely they were left in no uncertain terms as to just how far they had allowed their standards to slip after setting the bar so high for themselves in the rarified atmosphere of the Champions League.
The one thing Lennon did not address in his after-match assessment of a wretched 90 minutes for his team was the quality of the opposition who could not have executed this smash-and-grab job with any greater precision even in the wildest dreams of their own meticulous manager.
In fact, Kenny Shiels hadn't slept much through the week so upset and disappointed was he in his own decisionmaking last time out against St Johnstone. But his Parkhead assault was planned pretty much to perfection and his players pulled it off for him too with a display which was always assured and, at times, actually verging on inspired.
They defended in numbers when they had to, squeezing the space in which Celtic were attempting to operate and, when given the chance, they sprung into attack with purpose and no lack of precision. In fact, they were superb, especially given the age of so many of their players, most notably their outstanding 16-year-old debutant Mark O'Hara, who did not put a single foot wrong at right-back.
O'Hara - who left the ground afterwards for a lift home with his beaming parents - looked like he'd just been plucked off the high school pitches.
But he excelled himself in this cut-throat environment when placed in harm's way, up against the likes of Kris Commons and James Forrest. No wonder his mum and dad were so proud.
But the truth is, without wishing to take any credit away from Kilmarnock's management or players, for almost every success that Shiels had out there, Lennon had a failure.
In goal, where Fraser Forster froze inexplicably as Cillian Sheridan skipped around him to put the finishing touch to an opening goal which was so carelessly given away it almost defied belief.
At right-back, where Adam Matthews started the rot with one of a string of misplaced passes, this one leaving Efe Ambrose in trouble, with Sheridan snapping at his ankles.
Then there was Ambrose himself - and, for this one, Lennon has to shoulder at least some of the blame.
The Nigerian started as an anchor man in midfield but his passing was so sloppy and slack it was hard to see where Lennon was coming from, especially as it meant the much more comfortable and composed Charlie Mulgrew was filling in at centre-half, watching o messy work pressure. as Ambrose's k put him under It did not before Lenn t take too long non had a rethink and swappeagain but b was in a wo it was not So when him into bo of half-time at all to see even more making a h hearted att Sheridan fr What did however, w to spot the slightest th Had the k towards the have got th he stayed r ed the two over by then Ambrose orld of his own. And a happy place. Matthews played other on the stroke e, it was no surprise e Ambrose turn into trouble before hopelessly halfempt at stopping rom bursting clear. d shock the senses, was Forster's failure danger or to do the hing about it.
keeper raced out e ball then he would here in time. Instead, rooted to the spot and made the Kilmarnock striker's mind up for him. In the end, Sheridan scored with ease.
He could have got down on his knees and nudged it over the line with his head.
Celtic had managed nothing in that first half except a free-kick from Mulgrew that finally forced Cammy Bell into his first save of the day.
Lennon's players were limp and lacklustre and lacking in any kind of urgency.
So shoddy was Beram Kayal that he did not make it back out for the second half, the Israeli's place taken by Gary Hooper, who at least added a bit of energy to Celtic's attack even if he failed to breach Bell's defences.
Captain-for-the-day Commons, another undern performer, was next to make way, for Paddy McCourt, as Lennon searched for answers to the conundrum laid out by Kilmarnock who had only seconds earlier doubled their lead.
Ref Crawford Allan was perfectly positioned to spot Emilio Izaguirre's clumsy trip on 18-year-old Rory McKenzie and the terrific Liam Kelly smashed home.
Then, in 72 minutes, Miku - who had offered next to nothing - was sacrificed for Tony Watt and made a big deal of leaving the pitch at walking pace, as if he could not quite believe it was his number that was up before heading straight for the tunnel in an obvious huff. Quite why he felt so aggrieved was anyone's guess.
Kilmarnock keeper Bell was only forced to make two further stops, the first from another Mulgrew free-kick and then another to keep out a Watt snap-shot.
It was all so easy for the visitors that it appeared almost effortless but nothing could have been further from the truth. This was probably as well-drilled, efficient and as bold as anything Kilmarnock have produced in Shiels' time in charge.
The most courageous act Celtic's players mustered was returning to the dressing room to face the fury of their boss.
They may be in no hurry to be so brave and/or foolish again.
SUNK n Forster knows the Celtic goal is about to be breached by Sherridan
CHASE n Forster reacts late as Sherridan closes in on goal
n TOO EASY n The big ex-Celt rolls the ball over the line
SPOT-ON n Kelly smashes home a penalty for the second
DOWN J Mulgrew can't believe it at final whistle
DESPAIR J For Neil Lennon, and Tony Watt after going close
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|Publication:||Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)|
|Date:||Oct 29, 2012|
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