Marley Watkins scored the only goal of the game as Kilmarnock sensationally sent the holders, Celtic, out of the League Cup at Rugby Park.
The big striker converted a Danny Armstrong pass in the 59th minute of a pulsating last-16 tie in which the well-organised hosts had to withstand relentless pressure. Derek McInnes’ side held on to complete a remarkable early-season Old Firm double, having beaten Rangers 1-0 on the opening day of the Premiership.
For Brendan Rodgers’ side, the loss was a bitter and unexpected blow to a club who have won the trophy six times in the previous seven seasons. “We are very disappointed, and it was certainly nowhere near the level that we need to be at to win the game,” Rodgers said.
“It is a tough place to come, of course, but we need to show more and we need to have a greater physicality in the game. When you have won that battle you need to play with more quality and we didn’t play with that.”
Rodgers won seven out of seven trophies in his first spell at Celtic, and insisted the defeat put that achievement into context. “I think when I came in here before and won trebles, people think that’s just what you come in and do. It’s a very difficult thing to do … [but] I want to win every game as the Celtic manager and this is bitterly disappointing.”
In a lively opening spell, Killie defender Corrie Ndaba flicked a Danny Armstrong delivery just over the bar before Kyogo Furuhashi fired wide at the other end. The Japan international then stole the ball from Armstrong and raced clear, only to see his low drive saved by Will Dennis.
Celtic looked more purposeful at the start of the second half but in the 54th minute it was Hart who had to make a terrific save from Kyle Magennis’s drive from 16 yards. Killie then took the lead while the Celtic defender Greg Taylor was off the pitch getting treatment on a face knock.
David Turnbull and Yang Hyun-jun came on for Celtic as the travelling fans urged them forward. Brad Lyons threw himself in front of Yang’s shot to take the ball over the bar for another corner, which Killie defended. After seven minutes of added time, they held on for a stunning victory.
Kilmarnock will host Hearts in the quarter-finals, and McInnes wants his team to believe they can go the distance. “[We want to] try and create something special,” the manager said. “Come up with big occasions and try and go as far as we can in the cup, and be a cup-winning team. It helps the optimism that is clearly about the place.”
Rangers, who beat Morton 2-1 at Ibrox on Saturday, are at home again against Livingston in an all-Premiership last eight. Aberdeen will travel to Ross County, while Hibernian will host St Mirren after eliminating Raith Rovers.