Kilmarnock dented Celtic's title aspirations
further at Rugby Park as Joos Valgaeren rescued a point for the champions
in a 1-1 draw.
The Belgian defender struck in the second half
after Andy McLaren's first-half header to reduce the deficit
on Scottish Premier League leaders Rangers to four points.
But Martin O'Neill's men had ample opportunities
to have taken all the points.
Stilian Petrov signalled their intent with a low
right-foot shot from 22 yards after Henrik Larsson had knocked Chris
Sutton's ball into his path, but Gordon Marshall made a comfortable save.
But the former Celtic goalkeeper was well beaten
two minutes later and needed the post to come to his rescue.
Larsson got on the end of John Hartson's cross
and his header was deflected by Greg Shields and went behind off the
But Celtic were guilty of squandering a great
chance to take the lead in the 10th minute.
Sutton headed the ball into the path of Bobo
Balde and his shot from two yards was turned away by a relieved Kilmarnock
keeper, although the giant defender should have hit the back of the net.
But Jim Jefferies' side stunned the champions by
snatching the breakthrough with their first real chance of the game after
But Balde fouled Andy McLaren wide on Killie's
right and when Shaun Dillon's delivery arrived in the penalty box, McLaren
rose before Valgaeren and glanced the ball beyond Rab Douglas.
Andy McLaren talks about his goal Here (Realplayer Needed!)
Celtic seemed to have a good call for a penalty
in the 35th minute after Hartson appeared to be pulled back by Innes from
Balde's long ball.
But Celtic pushed Sutton further forward in
search of an equaliser and it almost paid off in the 52nd minute when he
played the ball across the face of goal, but Larsson was unable to get a
Kilmarnock somehow survived after Celtic hit the
post twice in a matter of seconds.
Agathe directed Thompson's cross into the path of
Larsson and he drilled a powerful right-foot shot against the woodwork and
Sutton did the same with the rebound from three yards out.
But it was only a matter of time before Celtic
drew level and they did that in the 66th minute. Hartson directed
Thompson's cross back into the danger area and Valgaeren headed past
Marshall from close range.
In the closing
seconds,Hartson was hacked down by James Fowler on the edge of Gordon
But ref Willie Young
didn't even give a free-kick as every Celtic player and fan, not to
mention O'Neill, demanded a penalty. In fact, the offence was outside the
box but Young didn't even see it as a foul.
Instead he gave Celtic a
throw-in and it was hardly surprising really that one or two Parkhead
people would want a word at the end.
With 88 minutes gone Peter Canero missed a
glorious chance to steal a win for the home side when he fluffed his close
range shot after ghosting in at the back post to connect with Steve
Fulton's precise cross.
Hartson sent a header sailing over the crossbar
as Celtic pumped a series of high balls into the Killie penalty area in a
O'Neill was understandably furious at the final
whistle as he attempted to speak with the official - but he should have
been venting his anger at his players for missing so many chances.
More of Sandy's
Fowler, Innes, Shields, Dillon, Canero, Mahood, Fulton, Mitchell,
McSwegan, McLaren. Subs: Meldrum, Dargo, Hay, Sanjuan, Boyd.