FROM NEIL DOHERTY IN GLASGOW: Hoops manager Neil Lennon was handed a perfect Christmas present when Great Greek Georgios Samaras’ double in the 2-1 win against Kilmarnock took Celtic to within a point of Rangers ahead of Wednesday’s Old Firm clash at Celtic Park.
Rangers lost at St Mirren earlier on Saturday after being reduced to ten men with Lee McCullough’s sending off after a shocking elbow attack.
Samaras – who some fans wanted axed a few weeks ago – headed the home side into the lead in first-half added time and hit his second with a fine drive seven minutes after the break as the Hoops extended their winning run in the SPL to eight games.
Killie substitute Danny Racchi hit a consolation at the end.
Now Celtic can go into 2012 as leaders if they win on Wednesday against their greatest rivals. It’s a 7.30pm kick-off and police in Glasgow will be out in force throughout the city.
Fans travelling from Donegal are being warned to be careful in the city.
But for now Neil Lennon is happy.
“The day couldn’t have gone better for us,” he said.
“A good performance, a good three points and we have closed the gap right up.
“But there is a lot of football to go and regardless of who were playing on Wednesday that would be the most important game.
“Samaras didn’t start the game great but got better as the game went on.
“The first goal pleased me the most, I have been looking for him to score more headers because he has that good physical attribute in the air and the second goal was good finishing.
“And we should have won the game comfortably.
“I thought we were in complete control in the second-half without being brilliant, although Ki Sung-yueng missed a couple of chances that would have put the game out of sight.”
James Forrest and Samaras came off in the second-half but Lennon allayed any fears before the Old Firm clash.
He said: “Georgios wasn’t feeling well before the game, he is struggling with a heavy cold but he wanted to play and we are delighted that he did.
“James was feeling a little bit of fatigue in the hamstring and he was obviously wary and he didn’t want to take too many chances with Wednesday looming.”
CELTIC (4-4-2): Forster; Cha, Mulgrew, Wanyama; Ledley; Forrest (K. Wilson 49), Brown, Kayal, Ki (Rogne 90); Hooper, Samaras (Bangura 66)
Subs not used: Zaluska, Izaguirre, McCourt, McGeouch
KILMARNOCK (4-4-2): Bell; Fowler, Sissoko, Pascali, McKeown; Kelly, Buijs (Dayton 62), Shiels (Racchi 72), Hay (Kennedy 78); Harkins, Heffernan.
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