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Celtic maintain five-point lead at top ahead of Old Firm clash

The Glasgow giants were both winners today.

James Forrest celebrates his goal.
James Forrest celebrates his goal.
Image: Ian Rutherford

CELTIC EXTENDED THEIR winning run in the Scottish Premiership to 11 games with a 2-1 victory at St Mirren on Boxing Day to maintain a five-point lead over Rangers at the top of the table.

Steven Gerrard’s men have a game in hand over the Scottish champions and kept up their title challenge with a 1-0 win over Kilmarnock ahead of Sunday’s clash between the two Glasgow giants at Celtic Park.

Celtic were more comfortable winners in Paisley than the scoreline suggests as first-half goals from Callum McGregor and James Forrest put them in command.

St Mirren goalkeeper Vaclav Hladky made a string of second-half saves from Forrest, Jeremie Frimpong, Odsonne Edouard, and Olivier Ntcham to prevent the visitors bolstering their goal difference.

And the Buddies even made Neil Lennon’s men sweat in stoppage time after Cameron MacPherson’s free-kick pulled a goal back a minute from time.

“We were a bit slow getting our shots off at times but I thought we looked dangerous all day,” said Lennon.

“I would like us to put a more flattering scoreline on the board, but in terms of the performance, it was good.”

Rangers needed talisman Alfredo Morelos to come off the bench to end Kilmarnock’s resistance at Ibrox.

Morelos had to settle for a place among the substitutes on his return from suspension as Jermain Defoe kept his place after scoring in Friday’s 3-0 win at Hibernian.

However, the Colombian made a big impact just seven minutes after coming on as he rounded off a fine team move also involving Ryan Jack and Joe Aribo.

Hibs won the battle for bragging rights in Edinburgh as Martin Boyle’s first-half brace beat Hearts to leave the Jambos still rooted to the foot of the table.

Boyle tucked home a delightful volley from Scott Allan’s incredible pass over his shoulder in the sixth minute before sliding the ball home on the counter-attack just after the half-hour mark.

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Hearts have now lost all four games under new manager Daniel Stendel and remain three points adrift of safety, while Hibs move up to fifth.

Declan Gallagher headed home a stoppage-time winner as third-place Motherwell came from behind to beat 10-man Ross County 2-1.

Aberdeen remain two points back in fourth as they saw off Livingston 2-1 courtesy of goals from Connor McLennan and Bruce Anderson.

St Johnstone are now seven points clear of the relegation zone as Alistair McCann scored his first goal for the club to secure a 1-0 win over Hamilton.

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