Celtic cruise as Rangers lose on pivotal night in title race

Celtic cruise as Rangers lose on pivotal night in title race
Celtic's Jozo Simunovic celebrates scoring his sides fifth goal during the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership match against Hearts. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

Celtic took a massive step towards a ninth league title in a row with a thumping 5-0 Ladbrokes Premiership win over Hearts as Rangers crashed to defeat at Kilmarnock.

Olivier Ntcham opened the scoring for Celtic on the half-hour mark before second-half goals from Christopher Jullien, Callum McGregor, substitute Ryan Christie and Jozo Simunovic completed the rout.

Hearts substitute Marcel Langer was shown a straight red card late on for a foul on Hoops skipper Scott Brown.

Parkhead cheered loudly when news of Killie’s 88th-minute goal in their 2-1 win over second-placed Rangers came through and Steven Gerrard’s side are now 10 points behind the champions, albeit with a game in hand.

Rangers were left with yet another dose of Rugby Park regret. Ayrshire was the venue when the wheels came off for Gerrard’s team during last season’s championship race.

And a ground where the Light Blues had won just once in their six previous league visits proved to be the graveyard for this year’s aspirations as goals from Stephen O’Donnell and Eamonn Brophy overturned the early lead given to the visitors by Scott Arfield.

Motherwell missed the chance to return to third after they were beaten 2-1 at St Johnstone courtesy of Chris Kane’s stoppage-time winner.

The substitute flicked home Jason Kerr’s near-post cross and was mobbed by his team-mates, including goalkeeper Zander Clark – who was no doubt the most relieved man inside McDiarmid Park after his blunder allowed Christopher Long to equalise five minutes after Motherwell had gifted Callum Hendry a well-taken opener.

The visitors had substitute Christy Manzinga sent off for a second bookable offence after he was deemed to have dived in the penalty area with eight minutes left.

Hibernian claimed back-to-back victories for the first time since November as they swept aside Ross County 3-0 at Easter Road.

The Hibs’ potent partnership of Christian Doidge and Marc McNulty both found the net during a dominant first half. McNulty saw a second-half penalty saved before defender Adam Jackson netted a third with a towering header late on.

A Steven Lawless penalty and strike from Lyndon Dykes earned Livingston a 2-1 win at home to St Mirren, who pulled a goal back through Jonathan Obika at the start of the second half.

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