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Kilmarnock 0 Celtic 3: Commons runs show at Rugby Park

A Kris Commons hat-trick gave Celtic a 3-0 win at Kilmarnock and edged the Hoops to within seven points of their third successive Scottish Premiership title.

Kilmarnock had started well against the champions-elect at Rugby Park but paid the price for switching off twice inside 90 seconds.

Commons combined well with Leigh Griffiths after 57 minutes to give the visitors the lead and make it 47 games since Celtic last failed to score a league goal.

The hosts failed to learn their lesson and allowed the former Scotland international to dart into the box unmarked to poke home from Adam Matthews' cross just moments later.

He then planted a left-footed strike beyond Craig Samson four minutes from time to claim the match ball.

Celtic manager Neil Lennon handed teenager Liam Henderson his first start for the club as the 17-year-old came in for injured winger James Forrest.

Commons also returned for the Parkhead side alongside Stefan Johansen after they both missed the 5-0 drubbing of Inverness a fortnight ago, replacing the suspended Virgil van Dijk and injured Israeli Nir Biton.

Kilmarnock boss Allan Johnston, meanwhile, named the team which beat Hearts 4-2 last Saturday as he pinned his hopes on former Rangers striker Kris Boyd grabbing just his second goal in 13 years against the Hoops.

But it was Commons who made the difference and Celtic now lead the top flight by 24 points with nine games remaining.

The Glasgow giants can pencil in their Parkhead clash with Ross County on March 29 for a title party, should nearest challengers Aberdeen avoid defeat before then.

Celtic looked like they had made the perfect start as they netted inside 60 seconds when Anthony Stokes finished off a Griffiths cross but the Irishman's strike was ruled out for offside.

Boyd looked eager to find the net against the Hoops for the first time since his days as a Rangers player back in 2007 but he just missed out as Sean Clohessy fizzed a dangerous cross to the back post early on.

It was then the Scotland striker's lay-off which allowed Michael Gardyne to fire at goal, albeit just wide, after seven minutes.

At the other end, Commons tested Craig Samson but the goalkeeper dealt well with an effort straight down his throat.

Boyd had a penalty claim rejected by referee Willie Collum after 22 minutes as Efe Ambrose appeared to give him a shove in the box.

It was a promising first half-hour for the home side against the runaway league leaders as they found space in between the Celtic midfield and their back four.

Lennon's men slipped up a gear, however, as the match edged towards the break and almost found the opener after 39 minutes.

Matthews made good progress down the right before firing in a low cross which skipped up off Kilmarnock defender Lee Ashcroft's shin and shot towards his own net.

But the ball fell into Samson's grateful grasp just as the goalkeeper looked like he might be wrong-footed.

The teams were still level at half-time and Johansen saw an early chance at the start of the second period beaten away as Samson reacted well to his 25-yard drive.

But Kilmarnock's resistance was finally broken when Commons collected Charlie Mulgrew's ball forward, playing a slick one-two with Griffiths before angling a finish past Samson.

And with the hosts still reeling from that blow, the Hoops took advantage of their stunned state to grab a second as Commons found Matthews on the right of the box before beating his marker into the six-yard box to apply the finishing touch.

Kilmarnock substitute Chris Johnston flashed a shot just wide as the home team looked for a way back into the game after 69 minutes, while Commons was made to wait for his hat-trick with a quarter of an hour left when another offside flag cancelled out his finish from Emilio Izaguirre's centre.

Lennon then gave midfielder Beram Kayal his first run-out since injuring an ankle against AC Milan back in November as the fit-again Israeli replaced Henderson with eight minutes left.

Commons wrapped up his treble after 86 minutes with a low shot which bounced past Samson's despairing reach on its way into the bottom corner.

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