Celtic hit six and claim title

Celtic clinched the Scottish title in style via a demolition of Kilmarnock, with Charlie Mulgrew the architect.

Mulgrew scored two and set up two more as Neil Lennon’s side, needing only a point, put the result beyond doubt by half-time at Rugby Park.

He headed in after eight minutes, Glenn Loovens nodded in nine minutes later, Mulgrew fired the 35th-minute third and Gary Hooper volleyed in on 45 minutes.

Joe Ledley chipped in after 88 minutes and Hooper shot home two minutes later.

Lennon’s first title in his second full season as manager – and Celtic’s first in four years – comes after they came from 15 points beind to overhaul holders Rangers, who began to stumble even before being docked 10 points by the Scottish Premier League for going into administration in February.

For Kilmarnock, who lost 5-1 at home to the Ibrox side on the final day of last season, it meant once again being the whipping boys at a Scottish Premier League title party.

Having upset the odds to beat Celtic in last month’s Scottish Communities League Cup final, the hosts would have had ambitions to repeat the trick here – and both sides began in determined mood, with players flying into the tackles – but it was Celtic who had soon muscled their way in front.

Ki Sung-Yueng’s corner found Mulgrew storming unmarked into the six-yard box and the defender powered his near-post header down and over the line.

And thoughts of an upset were quickly dispelled as Loovens gave Celtic the second goal that put them firmly in command.

Mulgrew, playing at left-back, found himself on the right wing and his inswinging cross to the back post was met powerfully by the head of the Dutchman, who had escaped the attentions of Mahamadou Sissoko.

If it was not quite the three goals in seven minutes that put Rangers on easy street last season, but Celtic – for whom Adam Matthews, Kelvin Wilson and Ki Sung-Yueng started in place of Mikael Lustig, Thomas Rogne and Anthony Stokes – were nevertheless getting the job done five games before the end of the season.

Kilmarnock goalkeeper Cammy Bell had been unable to match his heroics from Hampden but was called upon to save on the line from another Mulgrew header before superbly punching over a fine, curling Ki free-kick.

However, Bell was left exposed again when Mulgrew turned inside James Fowler and curled a low drive into the far corner of the net from just inside the penalty box.

Bell produced a desperate save with his legs to deny a low drive from Georgios Samaras before cup final goal hero Dieter van Tornhout had Kilmarnock’s first effort on goal with a looping header over the bar two minutes before the break.

There was still time before the interval for Hooper to blast a superb volley into the roof of the net from an acute angle after being found by Mulgrew’s curling cross to the back post.

Two half-time substitutions seemed to revive Kilmarnock and they were first to threaten after the re-start, with Liam Kelly – making his first start since the death of his father after the League Cup final win – blasting over, before Forster had to push clear a low Gary Harkins cross.

Harkins sent a drive into the side-netting and Fowler fired over then shot straight at Forster as Kilmarnock threatened to reduce the arrears.

Celtic, appearing to go through the motions having secured the win that takes them 21 points clear of reigning champions Rangers, nevertheless finished with a flourish.

Ledley broke through to flick over Bell before Hooper fired past the goalkeeper from 18 yards to inflict Kilmarnock’s heaviest-ever home defeat in the SPL.