Signed Match Shirt
v Rangers 10/09/2016
Moussa Dembele scored a hat-trick as Celtic hammered Rangers 5 – 1 in their first league derby for four years.
He rose above a static defence to head in from a corner then pounced on a Rob Kiernan mistake with a deft finish.
Joe Garner headed a reply before the break, but Dembele set up Scott Sinclair for the second with a finish off the post.
Rangers’ Philippe Senderos was sent off after a handball led to a second yellow card, before Dembele and Stuart Armstrong exposed the 10 men.
Victory lifts Brendan Rodgers’ Scottish Premiership leaders – and reigning champions – four points clear of their city rivals, who started the day in second place, with a game in hand.
Mark Warburton’s visitors, who won the Championship title last season, rarely looked like rescuing even a point once Dembele, the summer arrival from Fulham having started in place of the injured Leigh Griffiths, opened the scoring after a fairly even first 33 minutes.
The French striker thus became the first player to score a hat-trick in an Old Firm league derby for 50 years.
This dominant performance sets Celtic up nicely for Tuesday’s opening Champions League group game against Barcelona.
Dembele steps up
To lose a striker of Griffiths’ quality – he will not play in Barcelona either – was a blow for Celtic. The job of leading the line fell to young Dembele, playing in his first Old Firm game at the age of 20.
Dembele was utterly magnificent. A close-range header from a Sinclair corner for the first, gorgeous composure when cutting inside Senderos and coolly beating goalkeeper Wes Foderingham with the outside of his right boot for the second – and then a precise pass to Sinclair for the third.
A Celtic star was born, but he completed the hat-trick just to reinforce the legend, the first by a Celtic player in an Old Firm league match since Stevie Chalmers half a century ago.
Mikael Lustig’s cross dipped over the head of Joey Barton – in the midst of the crisis, the midfielder went back to centre-half – and Dembele smashed home Celtic’s fourth.
Rangers’ self-inflicted wounds
The Scott Brown versus Barton dynamic was a major part of the build-up. The first significant clash between the pair of them was won, critically, by Brown when the Celtic captain came out on top in an aerial battle that led to a Sinclair attack that brought a corner and the opening goal for Dembele.
A free header from such close-range was dreadful defending from Rangers – and it got worse. Kiernan gifted the ball to Tom Rogic in the preamble to the second goal and they were sliced open again for the third.
Celtic are too clever and too ruthless to look such gift horses in the mouth.
Senderos’ 75th-minute red card was another illustration of Rangers’ travails. David Weir, Rangers’ assistant manager, was sent to the stand soon after.
Psychologically, they were gone by then, on and off the pitch. Out-classed – and how Celtic Park basked in it.
A yawning gulf
Celtic had chances to add to their goal tally. Foderingham saved from Armstrong, who was terrific when he came on, and saved again from Dembele.
Brown went off to a rousing ovation after a performance that might have Barton recalibrating his opinion of him.
The fourth eventually came – and it was a historic moment for Dembele. The fifth, a neat finish from Armstrong, brought further joy for Celtic and more humiliation for their visitors.
One way traffic and a giant chasm between these sides.
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