Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Robbie Keane debut falls flat as Kilmarnock stun Celtic

THE same old failings brought the same old fallbacks from Celtic manager Tony Mowbray last night after Robbie Keane's debut for his club was distinguished only by a defeat that erodes further a fast-dissolving title challenge.
Robbie Keane cuts a dejected figure as his debut ends in a 1-0 defeat at Kilmarnock Picture: SNS Group

Earned by a 54th-minute goal from the striker they loaned late last night, Chris Maguire, Kilmarnock's first victory over Celtic in nine years and 32 attempts prevented Mowbray's men making any impression on Rangers' ten-point SPL lead with their game in hand. Keane's bow for the Glasgow club ended in further discordant noises about the direction the Celtic manager is taking a completely reshaped squad. Mowbray, though, sang the same old song in his post-match dissection.

"That's football, we will take it on the chin and keep going," he said, with his team only having 15 matches to effect a 10-point swing. "There is a long way to go and I'm sure there will be some twist and turns. There are big games and see how they flow at Ibrox or Easter Road when the pressure is on."

Mowbray said he "wouldn't call for patience" when asked if the quality was required as he looks to integrate up to eight new players after a hectic January window. He knows it will not be forthcoming as the league campaign continues to be marked by reverses the like of which Celtic have not suffered in a decade. "The team has got to gel quickly and we have got to put on performances and win games."

About Keane, Mowbray said: "He played well and made a few chances. You could see from the positions he found he will be a huge benefit."

On a night Mowbray said Scott Brown is "in my mind" as captain with the midfielder at the "stage of his career he needs to find the maturity" for such a role, Celtic lacked the on-field leadership or drive with which Kilmarnock manager Jimmy Calderwood imbued his charges. He admitted he felt they benefited from the "Keane effect", with a crowd of 9308. "The atmosphere was fantastic and really lifted our boys," he said of a first league win of his three-week Rugby Park tenure that keeps his team two points ahead of bottom club Falkirk, who were 1-0 winners at Aberdeen last night.

"I thought the script was written because I've had it before against Celtic in the Scottish Cup final that was Henrik Larsson's last game. Robbie Keane caused us all sorts of problems early on with his movement and we had to hang on. But we did.

"The defence got organised and Maguire kept the ball up front. There was some good football in the build up to the goal and Chris stuck it away well. After that, Celtic threw everything at us. As normal against the Old Firm, we had to ride our luck. The keeper (Cammy Bell] has made a lot of great saves and I don't think we tested Artur Boruc too much after the goal. But we got the victory."

Maguire joked that he only wished his loan move agreed from Aberdeen last night at 9pm was as "glamorous" as the man whose thunder he stole. "Am I get 65 grand a week as well? I wish." Money, as last night showed, doesn't always change everything.


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