Kilmarnock 2-5 Celtic

By Thomas McGuiganBBC Sport

Georgios Samaras fired a hat-trick as Celtic saw off a Kilmarnock revival in a pulsating seven-goal encounter.

Goals from Kris Commons and an early brace by Samaras looked to have put Celtic out of sight at a sun-kissed Rugby Park.

Kilmarnock sparked a revival through Sammy Clingan and Sean Clohessy before Samaras sealed his hat-trick.

And substitute Amido Balde smacked home a fifth as the hosts tired late on.

With league leaders Inverness not playing Hibs until later, Celtic had the chance to move top of the table for the first time this season.

Allan Johnston's side, without a home win since February, came racing out of the traps and Kris Boyd forced Fraser Forster into a save after meeting Clohessy's accurate delivery.

The visitors, who welcome Barcelona in the Champions League on Tuesday, struggled for fluency in the early exchanges.

Sean Clohessy pulled a second goal back for Kilmarnock at Rugby Park
Sean Clohessy continued Kilmarnock's revival with a second goal

However, they sparked into life when Charlie Mulgrew whipped in a ball for Anthony Stokes but the striker was flagged offside as he headed over.

Celtic were beginning to motor and broke the deadlock when Samaras danced down the left and his cross was palmed unconvincingly away by Craig Samson, allowing Commons to drill home with a shot into the ground that bounced into the unguarded net.

With Kilmarnock still reeling, Samaras took advantage of poor marking to arrow a shot beyond Samson from Adam Matthews's cross to double their lead.

And the hosts' misery was compounded when Samaras and Commons played a neat one-two before the former sliced through the statuesque home defence to slot home from close range.

Kilmarnock, rather than caving in following Celtic's three-goal blitz, rallied and reduced the deficit 11 minutes before the break when Clingan thundered a superb free-kick past the helpless Forster.

Pulling a goal back gave Johnston's side a spring in their step and they were given further cheer when Clohessy ghosted past Emilio Izaguirre and played a clever one-two with Clingan before sliding the ball home.

Kilmarnock's strong finish to the half would have changed the managerial team-talks in the respective dressing rooms at half-time and Celtic appeared stung after the break.

Samaras, continuing to probe and run at the home defence, saw a fizzing shot blocked by Ismael Bouzid and Kilmarnock continued to press as both sides attacked with gusto.

Teemu Pukki came within a whisker of grabbing his side's fourth of the afternoon when he engineered space for himself 25 yards out, fizzing in a shot that clipped the bar on the way over.

The second half lacked the goal glut of the opening 45 minutes and substitutions took some sting out of the game.

However, Samaras completed his hat-trick with a close-range header and substitute Balde fired home to extend the visitors' winning margin.

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