Kilmarnock 2 Dundee Utd 1
Two goals in the last 11 minutes enabled Kilmarnock to come from behind and defeat 10-man Dundee United at Rugby Park.
The Tannadice side led 1-0 through Noel Hunt’s 50th-minute goal – but the controversial 77th-minute dismissal of Christian Kalvenes for violent conduct proved the game’s turning point.
Kalvenes appeared to win the ball in a sliding tackle on Killie’s Steven Naismith – but referee Brian Winter saw it otherwise and dismissed the visiting defender.
William Gibson levelled the scores within two minutes – and Colin Nish won all three points for the home side with a close-range effort in the 87th minute.
Three Killie players named in the Scotland Under-21 squad today all started - Naismith, Jamie Hamill and Ryan O’Leary.
Gary Wales, who missed his side’s goalless draw at Celtic on the opening day of the season, was also included in the side.
United, who opened their season with a 1-0 home victory over Aberdeen, had Lee Wilkie back after suspension with Garry Kenneth relegated to the bench.
Allan Johnston had the game’s first effort on goal after four minutes, but his header was easily saved by Grzegorz Szamotulski.
At the other end Hunt blasted well over the crossbar from 25 yards.
Wilkie came to United’s rescue when he headed Johnston’s cross from the right for a corner with Nish waiting to pounce behind the big defender.
Barry Robson had a chance to put the home defence under pressure in 15 minutes, but he hit his cross straight into Alan Combe’s hands.
In the 20th minute Killie almost grabbed the opener, but Morgaro Gomis cleared a Nish header from a Rhian Dodds corner off the line for another corner.
Whistle-happy Winter angered both sets of fans with a series of baffling decisions which interrupted the flow of the game.
In the 28th minute Naismith had a half chance in the penalty box but his control let him down and the ball ran behind.
Two minutes later Naismith again came close with a header which was a yard wide of the United goal.
A driving pass into the Kilmarnock box in the 34th minute caused panic to the home defence with Hunt missing from point blank range.
Then Hunt again came close with a header which was just wide of Combe’s left hand post.
The deadlock was broken in the 49th minute when United took the lead – with the first goal the home side have conceded in more than seven hours of top flight action.
A ball from the right by Kalvenes found its way to the feet of Barry Robson. He mishit the ball across goal to Hunt – who had a simple tap-in from a few yards.
Three minutes later Prince Bauben nearly doubled his side’s lead when Combe had to make a good save from the Ghanaian player.
Darren Dods got the first yellow card of the match when he hauled down Naismith.
In a bid to inject some inventiveness into their play Kilmarnock brought on David Fernandez for Dodds in the 57th minute.
But the Spaniard’s introduction had little immediate effect as they continued to struggle to trouble the United defence.
Frazer Wright almost drew Kilmarnock level in the 66th minute but his rising shot from inside the box clipped the top of the crossbar and ended up in the stand.
Nish then made space for himself in the box but his curling shot was well off target.
In the 71st minute Killie brought on winger Gibson for Wales – and six minutes later the home side were thrown a lifeline when Kalvenes was dismissed.
Two minutes later Gibson scored his first goal for the Ayrshire side when he slammed in a Fernandez pass from 15 yards.
Killie stepped up the pressure – and in the 87th minute Nish steered in a Wright centre for Killie’s winning goal.