Tony Mowbray's hopes that his new look Celtic could revive their Scottish Premier League title challenge lay in ruins on Tuesday after they were beaten 1-0 by relegation-threatened Kilmarnock. Defeat leaves Celtic trailing bitter-rivals Rangers by 10 points.
The Celtic manager grabbed the headlines on transfer deadline day with the loan signings of Diomansy Kamara and Tottenham captain Robbie Keane and the pair started the game in a line-up bereft of any Scots. With such impressive additions to their attacking line-up Celtic were expected to dominate a Kilmarnock side hovering two points above bottom spot however Keane was denied a handful of chances by the impressive Cameron Bell.
But it was Kilmarnock debutant Chris Maguire who grabbed the headlines when he scored the only goal of the game seven minutes into the second-half to give his new side their first win over Celtic since May 2001, which leaves the losers title hopes in tatters.
Mowbray said he was disappointed not to reduce Rangers' lead. "There are no excuses. It didn't roll for us tonight," said Mowbray, who radically revamped the squad in January getting rid of several of predecessor Gordon Strachan's players. "I thought we had enough of the ball and possession and enough opportunities to win the game but didn't take them."
Jimmy Calderwood was delighted to get his first league win as Kilmarnock boss. "We got the luck tonight as Celtic started really well," said Calderwood, who replaced the long serving Jim Jefferies. "But we hung on and started to play a wee bit and caused them problems and I thought Maguire was wonderful."
Celtic supporters came in their thousands for the eagerly anticipated debut of Keane and his first meaningful involvement came just four minutes in when he teed up Ki Sung-Yeung to blast over the bar from 20 yards out. Kilmarnock, who scored four against Dundee United at the weekend, soon showed their strengths going forward.
Liam Kelly was first to try his luck when he struck a swerving effort straight at Artur Boruc before Jamie Hamill fired into the side netting from a tight angle. Despite their efforts it was the visitors who nearly took the lead.
Kamara's corner was headed past Bell but Garry Hay was on the line to clear the danger. Kamara then cut in from the left before flashing a powerful shot just wide of the post. As the game headed towards the break Keane, who had scored just once in his last 11 appearances for Spurs, squandered a hat-trick of chances.
Firstly he was picked out at the edge of the box by his Republic of Ireland colleague Aiden McGeady but his sidefooted shot was deflected wide before his attempt to chip Bell flew over the bar. Keane should have scored when he raced into the box in the 38th minute but with only the keeper to beat the striker opted to place his shot too close to Bell, who recovered to save again on the rebound.
But it was a Kilmarnock debutant that grabbed the headlines when Maguire fired the home side into a 52nd minute lead. Mehdi Taouil found the on-loan Aberdeen forward in space in the box and he struck an angled shot past Boruc into the bottom left-hand corner before defender Jos Hooiveld could close him down.
Keane was left frustrated when his goalward bound strike from Fortune's weighted cross was deflected wide by Simon Ford and Glenn Loovens' header was inches away from going in. Ki was left holding his head as his fiercely struck shot from the edge of the box somehow stayed out before Bell made a point-blank save from Keane.
In the other Scottish Premier League match played on Tuesday, Falkirk ended their Granite City hoodoo after their 1-0 win at Pittodrie gave them a first victory in Aberdeen since 1958. Colin Healy's superb strike after 31 minutes was the difference with the three points moving the Bairns off the bottom of the Premier League table on goal difference.