Celtic got back to winning ways, as they ran out victors in what was a largely comfortable 3-1 win against Kilmarnock in the Scottish Premiership at a torrential day at Celtic Park.

Just three days after their last-gasp loss at the hands of Lazio in the Champions League, Celtic put on arguably their best display of the season, which was largely thanks to the return to form of Reo Hatate, who put in a standout performance. It was his goal that started proceedings, as he skilfully got past his man with a lovely bit of individual work, before slotting past Will Dennis in the Kilmarnock goal.

The hosts would double their lead through the impressive Luis Palma, whose shot from distance nestled into the back of the net, in turn, his second goal in as many Premiership games. Making his first start for Celtic in the league, Palma was a constant threat on the left wing, fully deserving of his goal when the opportunity fell to him.

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Celtic had a whole host of chances in this game in both halves, but Kilmarnock pulled a goal back in the second half through David Watson, before Greg Taylor calmed things down ten minutes later to seal the win at 3-1. In doing so, Celtic temporarily moved seven and 10 points clear of St Mirren and Rangers respectively, with the pair due to face each other on Sunday afternoon.

Brendan Rodgers made two changes for this match, as Nat Phillips and Yang Hyun-jun made way for Cameron Carter-Vickers and Palma. Despite his below-par performance on Wednesday, Hatate was given another chance from the get-go to return to form in this one, which he did. The returning Carter-Vickers – his first start in months – was paired in defence alongside Liam Scales, who has been enjoying a personal career renaissance at the club. Kyogo once again led the line for Celtic, supported also by Daizen Maeda on the wing.

Here, The Celtic Way rounds up all the best StatsBomb data to give you a match report unlike any other…

xG trendline

As mentioned before, this was an extremely encouraging performance for Celtic, who clicked into top gear for this one from the early stages. Apart from a couple of half-chances falling to Kilmarnock forwards Kyle Vassell and Danny Armstrong, it was one-way traffic in the first half, as Celtic peppered their opponent’s goal with a multitude of shots and opportunities. Although the scoreline would end up 3-1, a more comprehensive victory could have been more suitably applicable for this content.

Celtic had three chances in the first 10 minutes, through Hatate, Alistair Johnston and Scales (0.08 xG combined), whilst the aforementioned Vassell registered the visitors’ first opportunity (0.04 xG). In the same pattern, Celtic registered another three chances to Kilmarnock’s one, as Kyogo, Johnston and Scales all contributed opportunities (0.12 xG), with Armstrong asking questions for his own team in the way of attacks (0.01 xG). This missed shot from the Kilmarnock winger was to be his side’s last chance of the opening half, as Celtic would launch a barrage of offensive manoeuvres that would result in two goals. Following chances from Palma, Taylor and Hatate (who would all get on the scoresheet), the latter name would imprint his authority on the game, with arguably the goal of the season so far.

This goal was all of the positive aspects of Hatate coming together nicely to inflict maximum damage on Derek McInnes’ side. Picking the ball up midway in Kilmarnock’s box, the Japan international eliminated his marker from the game with an audacious drag-back nutmeg, before continuing his run into the box. Essentially unmarked now, Hatate had all the time in the world to sort himself, before calmly slotting his shot past Dennis in goals. This was much more like it from the midfielder, who has been up and down with regard to form so far this season. This chance had an xG of 0.19, which rose to a massive 0.84 in PSxG, indicating how precise and accurate the shot was in its execution when leaving Hatate’s feet. This goal in the 22nd minute was no more than what Celtic deserved, a clear underlining of their dominance in the early stages of the game.

The barrages of chances would continue for the home side, as Johnston, Palma, Taylor and Hatate all registered further shots. It was a matter of when – not if – with regard to Celtic doubling their advantage, and 11 minutes later that question was emphatically answered.

The wide man Palma - who got the nod on the day - justified his manager’s trust in him with a stunning strike from outside the box. After trying to play his teammate Hatate in, the ball ricochets back to the Honduran, with space to operate. Palma took a touch to get it out of his feet, then curled it into the left-hand side of the net, in turn garnering the largest cheer of the day from the support. Two goals in his last two appearances for the club in domestic action, with this difficult chance only scoring 0.05 in xG, rising to 0.54 in PSxG, again thanks to the precision and quality of the strike once it left Palma’s boot. This goal was to be Celtic’s last chance of the first half.

Following the restart, it was largely more of the same for Celtic, who should have extended their lead further in proceedings. Matt O’Riley had two chances before Hatate and Palma both added to their growing list of attacks, with the former blocked by Lewis Mayo from doubling his goal tally for the day (combined xG 0.34). Vassell – leading the line for the visitors – came close with a header (0.12 xG), before Hatate and Maeda both had opportunities (0.12 combines xG), both of which weren’t converted.

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In a total snatch-and-grab scenario, Watson got his team back into the game with a well-worked team goal. After some nice passes, the ball found its way to Watson, who finished well past the helpless Joe Hart. (0.39 xG, then 0.43 PSxG).

After this shock goal, Celtic in the 10 minutes before their third looked nervous but were largely in control of the controllables in the contest. They would continue to push forward, with chances falling to Kyogo, James Forrest and Maeda (0.16 xG), before an unlikely scorer would pop up to calm the nerves of the home support.

O’Riley would deliver a corner into the box, which was flicked on by Maeda, the ball finding its way to Taylor, with the left-back afforded a tap-in past Dennis in the middle of the area. Despite how clear-cut the chance was, it was taken well by the left-back, who enjoyed a far better game than in midweek. The xG for this was 0.64, highlighting both the quality of the pick-out from Maeda and the opening for Taylor, who made no mistake in front of goal.

Maeda and Forrest had late opportunities to make the scoreline more reflective of the performance, but their chances were squandered (0.32 xG), as was a late shot from Vassell for the visitors (0.49 xG). However, the chances ended following that chance from the Kilmarnock forward.

Celtic had an unbelievable 27 total shots in this game, with 12 being on target for the home side and three goals scored. The shot map admittedly makes for mixed viewing, as it displays the Kilmarnock goal being peppered with shots, yet only three were converted. Still, it would be more concerning if the chances were not arising, and on another day Celtic would have made this far more comfortable in terms of scoreline.

This season in the league, Celtic take an average of 18 shots per game, so they clearly excelled in chance creation on the day, which is both encouraging and frustrating at the same time.

The visitors Kilmarnock managed six shots in the contest, with only one being on target. What will concern Celtic and their manager slightly is how close the away side were allowed to get to Hart’s goal, especially given their dominance in the vast majority of metrics in the game.

Kilmarnock this season have averaged 13 shots per 90 minutes, though this figure dropping at Celtic Park is largely to be expected, given their defensive set-up and game plan when travelling to Scotland’s toughest away venue.

In terms of individuals excelling with regard to shooting, Celtic’s standout player on the day was the busiest, as Hatate had six shots – scoring one – at an xG total of 0.57. Palma had four of his own, contributing an xG accumulation of 0.20 and one goal to his name. Maeda, Johnston and Taylor had three, though the latter’s xG was highest thanks to his goal, with a score of 0.64.

Vassell for Kilmarnock had triple the amount of chances to the next-highest shooter in his team. His three chances racked up an xG score of 0.73, on a day where chances were limited for McInnes’ players. Watson’s one chance – Kilmarnock’s goal – was 0.39 in xG.

Possession, passing and positions

Celtic recorded one of their highest totals of the season for possession – especially at home – for this game. They had 78 per cent possession of the ball, completing 692 of their 787 total passes at a success rate of 88 per cent. Kilmarnock only had 22 per cent possession of the ball and completed only 130 of their 221 passes, a success rate of just 59 per cent.

The passing network gives a rough idea of where the majority of the game was played and who was the most involved. Remember that the warmer the colour, the more influential the player was in the game, and the thicker the passing lines, the more passes between the players.

StatsBomb measures pass contributions in on-ball value (often referred to as OBV, a term breakdown of which can be read here).

The passing networks for both teams in both the first and second half indicate how the game changed in terms of what transpired. In the opening 45 minutes, Palma was Celtic’s top contributor in terms of OBV, his warm colour indicating his effectiveness in the game with the ball at his feet. Johnston and Scales were also effective in this regard. Robbie Deas, Watson and Mayo were Kilmarnock’s top performers in this metric for the opening half.

For the second half, Johnston kept up his consistency in OBV with a similarly impressive showing – as did Scales – whilst Carter-Vickers posted more of an impressive OBV haul for this half. Dennis and Watson both had effective possession-based performances for the away side.

In terms of statistical values, Palma scored the highest OBV total for Celtic at 0.29 for 36 passes, whilst Johnston ran the winger close, with 0.27 OBV for his 59 passes. Taylor was the opposite, posing -0.32 for 65 passes. Kilmarnock’s Watson had the highest OBV total for both teams, scoring a massive 0.62 off of just 14 passes, whilst Vassell’s seven passes scored -0.17.

There was a clear winner in terms of key passers, as the ever-impressive O’Riley contributed SEVEN of them, scoring 0.37 in xG. Callum McGregor and Hatate had three, whilst Palma and Johnston had two.

For Kilmarnock, their highest key passer total for a single player was one, with Liam Polworth scoring the highest xG at 0.39.

Pressing and defending

Celtic initialised 92 pressures to Kilmarnock’s 157, though the home side regained the ball more from pressures, managing 26 to the visitors 21.

Taylor had the most pressures in the game for Celtic with 14, though Johnston, Scales and McGregor had 11 each. In what was an incredible individual defensive performance, Watson had 35 pressures, whilst Bradley Lyons had 25. The Kilmarnock player also had the most counterpressures for either side in the game with 10, whilst McGregor had five. Despite coming off the bench late on, Yang had four counterpressures, indicating his keenness to get involved despite his limited game-time.

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Defensively, Carter-Vickers had the standout stat for Celtic, as he managed 10 clearances in the game, with his defensive partner Scales contributing six to the cause. The latter won a massive 14 aerial duels in the game, again showcasing why he is thriving in Rodgers’ team at the moment.

Lyons for Kilmarnock had nine total tackles and interceptions, whilst Stuart Findlay managed 14 clearances, in what was a busy day for the Ayrshire side’s defence.