ABERDEEN 3 CELTIC 4: 3-GOAL SINCLAIR THE HERO IN 7-GOAL THRILLER

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ABERDEEN 3 CELTIC 4

SCOTT SINCLAIR was the Celtic hero with a scintillating hat-trick in the champions’ hard-fought triumph over the Dons at Pittodrie this afternoon.

The Hoops battled all the way to the three points that keep them on top of the Premiership, despite some baffling decisions from blundering referee Willie Collum.

The match official awarded Derek McInnes’ team two gift-wrapped penalty-kicks as Santa arrived late in the north east.

However, even some diabolical decision-making from Collum could not sidetrack tBrendan Rodgers’ men on their way to a third successive victory over the Dons this season.

Sinclair, who scored the winner against the same opponents at Parkhead in September, was in unstoppable form as he rattled in his second hat-trick for the Parkhead outfit, the first coming on title day at Tynecastle in 2017 when Hearts were routed 5-0.

The Englishman netted the opener in the sixth minute after Ryan Christie had released Callum McGregor on the left.

The midfielder steadied himself before firing in an inviting cross that was blocked by Dominic Ball and fell to Sinclair who thumped his effort unerringly into the net from six yards.

Ropy ref McCollum threw the Dons a lifeline in the 23rd minute when he awarded a dodgy spot-kick following an Emilio Izaguirre challenge on Niall McGinn on the edge of the box.

There didn’t look much in it, but the match official pointed to the spot and Stevie May swept the award high past Craig Gordon.

Brendan Rodgers replaced Izaguirre with Jonny Hayes at the start of the second-half to add an attacking option to the side.

In the 70th minute, Odsonne Edouard entered proceedings as a sub for McGregor as Rodgers went for a more direct approach. Six minutes later, the £10million Frenchman was involved in setting up the second goal for Sinclair.

He brought Forrest into play on the right with a neat pass and the winger’s cross was superbly tucked away by the flamboyant raider.

Six minutes later, Graeme Shinnie took an obvious dive in the box after a non-existent challenge from Mikeal Lustig and Collum again presented the home side with a penalty-kick which Sam Cosgrove rattled beyond Gordon.

But Edouard deservedly put Celtic ahead again in the 86th minute when he latched onto a pass from Forrest, regained possession and lobbed the ball into the empty net as keeper Joe Lewis raced from his line and found himself in no-man’s land.

And two minutes later the substitute rolled the ball across from the left for Sinclair to thump in his hat-trick from close range.

Lewis Ferguson scored his side’s third goal following some slack defending at a left-wing corner-kick, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the champions from topping the league on Boxing Day.

TEAM: Gordon; Lustig, Boyata, Benkovic, Izaguirre (sub: Hayes 46); Brown, McGregor (sub: Edouard 70), Rogic, Forrest (Sub: Ajer 89), Sinclair; Christie.

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