Celtic earns vital Boxing Day win

Celtic and Motherwell earned victories in the Scottish Premiership on Boxing Day.

Celtic’s inexorable march towards the Scottish Premiership title continued as they moved 11 points clear with a 1-0 win over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park. Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk scored a wonderful solo goal in the fifth minute as the effervescent visitors took a firm hold of the first half without adding to their lead.

The home side came into the game after the break to make it more interesting encounter but the champions did enough to take the three points back to Glasgow Neil Lennon’s men go on to Inverness on Sunday looking to extend their unbeaten run in the league to 18 matches, with the Hoops manager hoping they can replicate an impressive first-half performance.

A goal on the counter-attack from Lionel Ainsworth saw Motherwell leapfrog Aberdeen as they climbed into second spot with a 1-0 win. Ainsworth netted early in the second half of a game which the home side just about had the better of but could not make the most of their opportunities.

Kris Boyd scored twice as Kilmarnock ran out 4-0 winners at basement side Hearts. The striker’s brace sandwiched a superb Chris Johnston effort, although Boyd would have been disappointed that he did not leave with the match ball after missing two second-half chances to collect a hat-trick.

Rory McKenzie added a fourth in the 90th minute with another spectacular effort that flew in off the post. The win was the visitors’ sixth on the bounce at Tynecastle, and it lifted Allan Johnston’s side 21 points clear of their Boxing Day opponents.

A dominant Partick Thistle squandered a series of chances to claim their first home league win as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Inverness. Kris Doolan, Steven Lawless and Kallum Higginbotham all missed the target from close range and Caley Thistle goalkeeper Dean Brill made several good saves as Alan Archibald’s men controlled the vast majority of the game.

Billy McKay and Ben Greenhalgh had decent chances for the visitors but defeat would have been harsh on the home side, who have now not won for eight games since beating Inverness more than two months ago.

Goals from set pieces in either half from defenders Michael Nelson and Jordon Forster saw Hibernian complete a cup and league double over Ross County with a 2-0 victory at Global Energy Stadium. Hibs knocked County out of the Scottish Cup with a 1-0 win at the end of November and they followed it up with another solid defensive display.

St Mirren ended Dundee United’s six-match winning streak as Steven Thompson’s double booked-ended a 4-1 win in Paisley. The former Scotland striker struck the opener for Saints against his old side after 12 minutes before 19-year-old talent John McGinn added a second with 10 minutes of the first half remaining.

United did pull one back just seconds later when Nadir Ciftci netted but the games was over as a contest when Jason Naismith slotted his first goal for the Buddies with 20 minutes left. Thompson then wrapped up the scoring with a fourth two minutes from time.