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Celtic's number five Jozo Simunovic scored in the 67th minute as the Hoops pay tribute to Billy McNeil

Celtic celebrate a goal from number five Jozo Simunovic in the 67th minute
Celtic celebrate a goal from number five Jozo Simunovic in the 67th minute

Celtic's number five Jozo Simunovic scored the only goal in the 67th minute as the Hoops paid a fitting tribute to their iconic Lisbon Lion Billy McNeil.

The club's greatest ever captain, who passed away on Monday aged 79, was the first British player to get his hands on the European Cup in 1967 when Jock Stein's Celtic defeated Inter Milan.

An emotional day at Parkhead was not going quite go to plan for over an hour as Kilmarnock frustrated the Scottish Premiership leaders but Simunovic, wearing the number five so closely associated with McNeill, headed in a Callum McGregor cross for his first goal of the season fittingly after 67 minutes.

The 1-0 victory took them 12 points clear on the brink of an eighth successive title, with Neil Lennon afterwards branding it the "perfect way" to win the game.

Interim boss Lennon, who along with skipper Scott Brown had laid a wreath at McNeill's statue outside the stadium before the game, said: "It's amazing when you think about it. That was a perfect way to win the game I suppose under the circumstances, with everything that's happened this week and today.

"The big man might have been looking down on us when we needed a goal. Jozo has been outstanding for me since I've come in. I want my centre-halves to attack the ball more and he's doing that on a regular basis.

"I'm pleased with the win, pleased with the second half and it's a great three points."

Simunovic said he was "very proud" to play his part after he had joined his team mates and McNeill's family at the statue ceremony before the game.

He told Sky Sports: "It was very special, very emotional.

"I couldn't imagine the scenes when we came here before the game, so many people outside, his family as well.

"An amazing feeling, an amazing guy for Celtic. A big, big guy for the club, for the history of Celtic. I'm just proud, very proud."

If Rangers fail to beat Aberdeen on Sunday then the Scottish title will be secured.

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Most Read Football

Get all the latest football gossip from the day's back pages
1

Paper Talk: Wolves close on Marega

Three former players to decide Manchester United transfer targets - and a £30m striker heading to Wolves. Plenty more too in a bumper Thursday edition.

Romelu Lukaku
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Lukaku odds-on for Inter move

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Rovers to secure promotion

The first of the games on the Sky Bet EFL play-off weekends final comes from League Two, where Tom Carnduff is backing Tranmere to go up.

Get all the latest football gossip from the day's back pages4

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Sporting Life's Sky Bet Championship final guide for Aston Villa v Derby5

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