A SECOND-HALF Marley Watkins strike ensured Kilmarnock defeated holders Celtic in the second round of the Viaplay Cup at Rugby Park and progressed to the quarter-finals this afternoon.

Brendan Rodgers, who had never suffered a loss in a domestic cup competition before today, was missing key players Cameron Carter-Vickers and Reo Hatate for the encounter with the cinch Premiership side and it showed.

The treble winners, who have lifted this trophy in the past two seasons, were poor from kick-off to the final whistle and could have no complaints whatsoever about the final scoreline.

It is the first time in 10 years that the Parkhead club have failed to progress to the last eight of the competition.

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But Derek McInnes’s side, who made the breakthrough on the hour mark when Watkins got on the end of a Danny Armstrong delivery, battled from start to finish and were worthy winners at the end of the 90 minutes.

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Kilmarnock went into this meeting on the back of an exceptional run of form; they had won four and draw two of the cup and league games they had played in the 2023/24 campaign. 

Could the Ayrshiremen, who dished out an opening day Premiership defeat to Rangers earlier this month, complete an early season Old Firm double?

The painful 2-0 loss they suffered in the semi-final of this competition back in January gave them an added incentive to perform at their best and produce a shock.

Kilmarnock had been denied an injury-time penalty at Hampden when Joe Wright went down in the Celtic area following a challenge by Giorgos Giakoumakis – who then went straight up the park and scored.

Not surprisingly, McInnes kept faith in the starting line-up which had taken to the field in the 0-0 draw with Hearts at Tynecastle seven days earlier.

Kilmarnock more than held their own during the opening 45 minutes and carved out a few half-chances in the final third. Their best opportunity came when Corrie Ndaba got on the end of a Stuart Findlay delivery and headed just past the post shortly before half-time.  

The Herald: Marley Watkins scored the vital goal for the hosts

But they struggled, despite having 6ft 1in striker Watkins playing up front, to put the new Celtic central defensive partnership of Gustaf Lagerbielke and Maik Nawrocki under intense pressure.

McInnes’s men redoubled their efforts when the second-half got underway. Kyle Magennis forced Hart to palm wide early on and they took the lead shortly after that. Armstrong hooked across goal and Watkins prodded into the net from a few yards out. The narrow victory was no more than they deserved.


With Carter Vickers and Stephen Welsh both out injured, Rodgers was forced into handing his new recruit Lagerbielke a quickfire debut at centre half.

The 23-year-old, a £3m acquisition from Elfsborg in his native Sweden this week, made his full international debut for his country earlier this year and his been tipped to win many more caps.

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Still, having to field Lagerbielke, whose move was only finalised on Wednesday, next to Nawrocki, the Polish defender who was making just his third appearance, in the heart of his defence away from home on an artificial surface was far from ideal.

Lagerbielke’s debut did start auspiciously – he hit an attempted passback to Hart straight out the park in just the second minute and Ndaba went close to netting from the resultant Armstrong corner.

He then brought down Watkins inside his own area. Referee Alan Muir was unimpressed with the hosts’ appeal for a spot kick and his VAR colleagues back at Clydesdale House in Glasgow agreed with him after viewing a replay. But it was a scare for the visitors.

Things did not improve for him greatly thereafter. But the new boy was far from the only Celtic player who failed to get pass marks.


Fielding Matt O’Riley next to David Turnbull in the Premiership matches against Ross County and Aberdeen had not, despite the wins Celtic recorded, really worked.

The playmakers are too similar in style to be truly effective together and the Scottish champions' midfield had lacked a certain steel.

Rodgers realised a change was required. With Hatate sidelined for an indefinite period of time with a calf problem, he ave Odin Thiago Holm his first start.

Great things are expected of the young Norwegian in his homeland and it has been easy to see why since he arrived in the East End of Glasgow.

But could the slight and skilful youngster give Celtic a better balance in the middle of the park? He did well to tee up Kyogo Furuhashi with a shot in the fifth minute after being sent through by O’Riley.

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The 20-year-old, though, gifted Armstrong the ball in his own half shortly after that and was relieved when Hart dealt with his opponent’s long-range attempt. He was anonymous thereafter. 

Holm could not be faulted for effort. He is clearly a clever and technically adept footballer. But is he strong enough to operate in the deep-lying role alongside captain Callum McGregor? It did not look like it on this evidence. 

With the first match of the new season against Rangers looming at Ibrox on Sunday week, Rodgers will be hoping that Hatate makes a quick recovery.  


Rodgers attempted to get Celtic back into the game soon after Kilmarnock had edged in front when he took off Holm and Liel Abada and put on Turnbull and Yang Hyun-jun. Sead Haksabanovic then took over from O’Riley.

But the replacements made little if any impact on proceedings. Celtic could have played to midnight and not netted. They have serious problems which will have to be addressed if they are to realise their ambitions both at home and abroad in the coming months   


Brad Lyons and his Kilmarnock team mates, as they had a fortnight earlier when they defeated Michael Beale’s expensively-assembled side, all performed superbly. But young David Watson, who is just 18-years-old, was among the best of them. The academy product has a bright future in the game if he continues to acquit himself like this.