Celtic dropped two more vital Premiership points as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Kilmarnock at Celtic Park last Saturday.

Kyogo Furuhashi’s opener in the first half looked like it would be enough to secure the three points. However, David Watson headed in a dramatic stoppage-time leveller for the visitors to deny the defending champions.

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A fourth home match in which they have dropped points since the start of the season, this latest failure to pick up maximum points at Celtic Park followed a similar pattern to several matches this season in that it started encouragingly enough but gradually deteriorated as the match progressed.

This trend has been noticeable at points earlier in the season but it has become more prevalent in the first four league games back since the winter break…

Ross County (H) – 27 January

xG by half

  • Celtic First: 1.67* (0.89 non-pen)
  • Celtic Second: 0.34
  • Celtic Total: 2.01


  • Ross County First: 0.54
  • Ross County Second 0.37
  • Ross County Total: 0.91

Despite back-to-back defeats in the middle of December, Celtic recovered to string together four league wins, including a 2-1 derby success, before the winter break. Returning to action on 21 January with a comfortable Scottish Cup win over Highland League side Buckie Thistle, the first league game back was at home to Ross County.

With just four wins all season, relegation-threatened County found themselves behind after just 60 seconds at Celtic Park, Canadian international Alistair Johnston’s deflected strike finding its way past George Wickens in the County goal. Paulo Bernardo missed an excellent chance to extend the lead before Luis Palma failed to convert from the spot not once but twice with Wickens saving both his initial effort and a retake.

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According to StatsBomb’s data, Celtic finished their first half back on league duty with an expected goals value (xG) of 1.67 (0.89 non-pen) to County’s 0.54.

Although the Highland side did not generate as much xG in the second half (0.41), Celtic then only managed five, low-quality, attempts on goal in the second period which came to a total of just 0.34.

County’s second-half xG came from just three efforts with, worryingly, two of these chances (0.17 and 0.16 xG) coming in time added on at the end of the match as they racked up a slightly higher xG in the second half (0.37) than Celtic managed.

Aberdeen (A) – 3 February

xG by half

  • Celtic First: 1.31
  • Celtic Second: 0.66
  • Celtic Total: 1.97


  • Aberdeen First: 0
  • Aberdeen Second 0.71
  • Aberdeen Total: 0.71

Celtic then looked as if they had shaken off any winter break rust with a dominant first-half display in Pittodrie the following weekend. Totalling 1.31 xG before the break, missed opportunities were the theme once more though, Bernardo and Palma were among those again failing to convert clear chances.

Making do without Cameron Carter-Vickers through injury, the Hoops’ defence nullified the hosts in the opening 45 minutes with Aberdeen not managing to get one attempt on Joe Hart’s goal.

However, Bojan Miovski scored with their first attempt just five minutes into the second half and although January signing Nicolas Kuhn came off the bench to level, Celtic had to settle for a draw. They did blunt the Dons after the 70th minute and had five attempts on goal from the 80th minute themselves as they looked for a winner.

Ultimately, despite a very good half where all that was missing was the goal, for the second week running Celtic came up second best on the xG front after the break.

Hibernian (A) – 7 February

xG by half

  • Celtic First: 0.83* (0.04 non-pen)
  • Celtic Second: 1.37* (0.59 non-pen)
  • Celtic Total: 2.20


  • Hibs First: 0.31
  • Hibs Second 0.88
  • Hibs Total:1.19

After dropping points at Pittodrie, Celtic were on the road again for a midweek trip to Easter Road. A venue Rodgers had failed to win in his first spell in the Hoops dugout, Adam Idah’s double from the penalty spot was enough to claim the three points and end that record. However, although some differences in the xG dynamics, similar trends remained.

The one main difference was an inability to replicate the first half from Aberdeen. Idah’s first penalty aside, a speculative O’Riley effort was the only other effort in the opening 45 for Rodgers’ side. They did manage to restrict Hibs to just one first-half effort, albeit a very good chance for Elie Youan.

They did, for the only match of the first four league games since the winter shutdown, improve after the break and ended the second period with 1.37 xG. However, taking out Idah’s late penalty, it was again the opposition who generated the higher xG in the second half with Hibs ending on 0.88 non-penalty xG from 11 attempts to Celtic’s 0.59 non-penalty total from five attempts.

Kilmarnock (H) – 17 February

xG by half

  • Celtic First: 0.87
  • Celtic Second: 0.29
  • Celtic Total: 1.16


  • Kilmarnock First: 0.23
  • Kilmarnock Second 0.88
  • Kilmarnock Total: 1.09

Having already suffered defeat to Kilmarnock twice this season, once in the League Cup and once in the league, Celtic again reverted to falling away in terms of chance creation in the second half on Saturday as they dropped points for the second time in three league games.

After another ok first half where they generated just under 0.87 xG, Kyogo converting on 32 minutes to give them the lead, they once again failed to get anywhere near their opening 45 minutes output and added only another 0.29 xG in the second half.

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Yet again, this was coupled with the opposition ‘outgunning’ Celtic in terms of xG in the second half. After three first-half efforts (0.23 xG), Killie, staggeringly, managed to get ten efforts on Hart’s goal in the second half on Saturday (0.86 xG).


Whether it is a lack of squad depth, partially due to injuries to key players, and substitutes weakening the team, a fitness issue or otherwise, Celtic’s struggles in the second half of matches since the return from the winter break are proving to be a significant obstacle in their pursuit of the Premiership title.

In three of the four post-break games, Celtic started well enough but then were unable to maintain their level of chance creation in the second period. Coupled with giving up more opportunities to the opposition than they have been able to create themselves in the second period, as has been the case in all four league games, this has proved a toxic combination.

As the above graphic from StatsBomb reinforces, the Aberdeen game aside, where there was a slight uptick, Celtic’s xG for has been on the slide since the break while there is an increase in xG being conceding.

Ultimately, and quite obviously, these numbers simply have to start moving the other way again, and quickly, if Celtic are to retain hope of claiming the Premiership title this season.