Kilmarnock 2 Celtic 1
Matty Kennedy scored a late winner as Kilmarnock inflicted a second defeat on Celtic this season.
The Hoops started in dominant fashion in Ayrshire as they looked to avenge their Viaplay Cup loss and Matt O’Riley gave them a 33rd-minute lead with his ninth goal of the season from close range.
However, Killie came very close either side of the goal and they were eventually rewarded for their improvement when Nat Phillips turned Brad Lyons’s cross into his own net in the 75th minute.
Danny Armstrong then slipped Kennedy through as Killie counterattacked down the right-hand side and the winger’s effort went in off Joe Hart.
Brendan Rodgers had suffered his first domestic cup defeat as Celtic manager at Rugby Park in August and the latest loss on the artificial surface was the first Scottish Premiership defeat of his second spell in charge. It leaves Celtic five points ahead of Rangers but with one more game played.
Rodgers admitted his side were too negative in their passing in the second half at Rugby Park.
“I thought in the first half we were very good. We played at a good speed and created opportunities. We could have maybe have been more than 1-0 up by half-time.
“But in the second half we never got started. You expect a wee bit of pressure for 10 or 15 minutes, which we weathered at set-pieces and corners. But we never passed the ball.
“We were under a bit more pressure, sure, but you have to be resistant to that pressure. We weren’t able to make passes to take us up the pitch and that was the biggest disappointment of the second half. We couldn’t sustain any attacking threat in the game.
“When you play Kilmarnock it’s quite a direct game so you have to be able to win the first, second and third balls. But we didn’t do that.”
Rodgers was angrier than he had ever been as a manager when his side trailed against St Johnstone at half-time seven days earlier before coming back to win. But he was more measured in his response after a first Premiership defeat of the season.
“The players know themselves,” Rodgers said. “We spoke after the game about how this isn’t how we want to do.
“In the second half we played their game instead of playing our game. I thought we got rid of the ball in the second half instead of passing it. And there is a big difference.
“We ended up being too negative in our passing. If you play a team that’s pressing and right up against you there, you’ve got to pass the ball forward. Because that forward pass eliminates pressure. And we weren’t able, for some reason, to do that.”
Rodgers has now lost 10 domestic games over two spells as Celtic manager and four of them have been at Rugby Park.
“I thought the pitch was all right for an AstroTurf surface,” he said. “When you get rain, it makes it slick, and it was actually good, but in the British game you have to have that adaptability.”