CELTIC 6 KILMARNOCK 1
RUTHLESS Celtic gave Kilmarnock a goal of a start and then went on the rampage as they hammered in six in spectacular fashion.
Brendan Rodgers would have been far from satisfied with the manner the visitors took the lead, but he must have been delighted with the response from his team.
Moussa Dembele hoisted his campaign total to ten with a quickfire double, Leigh Griffiths came on and made an immediate impact with a goal and Scott Sinclair rattled in a penalty-kick to set a Hoops record by scoring in his sixth successive league game.
It was a fabulous retaliation from the champions and, intriguingly, there was a change of goalkeeper at half-time when Dorus de Vries made way for Craig Gordon.
Apparently, the Dutchman had picked up a first-half knock, but, once again, he didn’t look too clever when the Rugby Park side, against the run of play, took the lead in the 32nd minute.
It was a remarkable strike that silenced the Parkhead choir – and stunned the well-beaten De Vries.
Killie’s Ivory Coast striker Souleymane Coulibay turned swiftly all of 40 yards out to send a speculative strike at the Celtic goal. To the horror of the home support, De Vries, who had conceded 11 goals in four games before this one, was caught off his line.
The ball thudded into the back of the net and the visitors could hardly believe they were actually in front after weathering the storm for half-an-hour.
The goal left another question mark over the qualities of the 35-year-old former Dunfermline shotmisser who hasn’t had a shut-out since he joined the Hoops from Nottingham Forest last month.
However, the goal merely prodded Celtic into frantic action and Dembele levelled three minutes later with a sublime finish with his right foot. Mikael Lustig set up the opportunity with a low ball into the box and the 20-year-old French ace reacted quickly to flash a drive high beyond the helpless Jamie McDonald.
In the 38th minute, he staged an action replay – this time with his left foot – to put the Hoops ahead. Kieran Tireney, once again a contender for Man of the Match, raced down the left before picking out the striker with a neat pass.
Dembele, with room to move, didn’t hesitate as he blasted another effort high past the helpless McDonald to take his goal haul into double figures.
Celtic might have scored a third moments later after another great run from Tierney set up Tom Rogic, but the Aussie attempted to switch the ball to his left foot and was crowded out.
There was a surprise for the fans when Gordon raced out to take his place in goal with De Vries remaining indoors at the start of the second-half.
Seven minutes into the restart, Rodgers’ men netted a third and this time it was James Forrest, the goal hero against Alloa in midweek, who was on the scoresheet as he prodded home a Rogic pass.
In the 65th minute, there was a huge roar for Dembele as he made way and there was a round of applause as Griffiths came on to lead the attack.
Within seconds, Griffiths lashed a shot at goal that was beaten away by the overworked McDonald.
Moments later, last season’s 40-goal man was celebrating his return following a calf injury with a goal. A ball in from Sinclair was nodded on by Jozef Simunovic and Griffiths got the last touch to knock the ball into the roof of the net.
Killie were all over the place and escaped when Rogic hit the upright with a mishit shot seconds later.
In the 72nd minute, Griffiths was brought down by a desperate lunge from Greg Taylor and referee Nick Walsh had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
In a nice touch, the striker handed the ball to Sinclair to give the ex-Aston Villa attacker the opportunity of beating Jimmy McGrory’s record of netting in five successive league outings.
Sinclair duly obliged by banging the ball past McDonald and was then replaced by Patrick Roberts.
The sixth arrived five minutes from the end when Rogic, who had been threatening all day, sent in a shot that completely bamboozled McDonald on its way into the net.
It will be a different story against Manchester City on Wednesday, of course, but Celtic can go into the contest with confidence. This was a pulverising performance and it was great to see Dembele, Griffiths, Sinclair, Forrest and Rogic all on the scoresheet.
TEAM: De Vries (sub: Gordon 46); Lustig, Sviatchenko, Simunovic, Tierney; Brown, Bitton; Forrest, Rogic, Sinclair (sub: Roberts 73); Dembele (sub: Griffiths 65).