CELTIC 4 ABERDEEN 1
CELTIC are back where they belong at the top of the Premiership following a four-goal flourish against Aberdeen at Parkhead this afternoon.
The champions are looking down again from pole position after making it three wins out of three, the perfect league start for Brendan Rodgers.
It was another crucial win for the Hoops with first-half goals from Leigh Griffiths and James Forrest and two more in the closing stages from a Scott Sinclair penalty-kick and Tom Rogic with a devastating free-kick.
A packed Parkhead was rocking and there is every possibility of an action replay at the end of the Glasgow derby at the ground on September 10.
Dorus de Vries, signed from Nottingham Forest, made his debut with Craig Gordon dropping to the subs’ bench – and the Dutch keeper was close to marking his first appearance by losing an early goal.
The Dons cut through the Parkhead rearguard and Wes Burns was presented with an excellent chance, but he blazed the ball wildly off target.
It was a costly miss for last season’s runners-up because the champions then took control of the contest for the next half-hour, but amazingly and frustratingly, only had a one-goal advantage to show for it.
Rogic was right out of luck in the 11th minute with a trademark long-range drive that looked a scorer from the moment it left his boot.
Joe Lewis was beaten all the way, but, unfortunately, the attempt crashed against the underside of the crossbar and the opportunity was lost. It would have been another spectacular effort for the Aussie international to add to his collection.
However, there was no reprieve for the Pittodrie side when the Hoops broke the barrier two minutes later and once again it was Griffiths, last season’s 40-goal hitman, on target.
The lively striker nutmegged the startled Kenny McLean before taking aim from outside the box and his left-foot drive hurtled beyond Lewis as it crashed into the net via the inside of the post.
It was the international star’s sixth strike of the current campaign – so he only has 34 to go to emulate his feat of last term!
Celtic were in complete control and Derek McInnes’ team were under almost constant siege as the green-and-white tornado came at them from all angles.
Remarkably, against the run of play, the Dons levelled to stun the Hoops and startle the supporters in the ground in the 32nd minute. Anthony O’Connor broke up a move in midfield and fed a pass to Burns who picked out ex-Celt Niall McGinn in a dangerous position.
The speedy winger’s drive was blocked by Kolo Toure, but it bounced to Adam Rooney who hit it first-time as he fell and the ball hurtled past De Vries, all hopes of a debut shut-out obliterated in an instant.
The former Dunfermline shotstopper was in trouble not long afterwards with a sloppy ball out of defence that was picked up by McLean. Fortunately, for the new Bhoy, Toure was there to mop up the danger.
Three minutes from the turnaround, Celtic regained the advantage and, like last week in the 4-2 win over St Johnstone, it was a stylish finish from James Forrest.
Rogic displayed some quick thinking and nifty footwork as he set up the winger who struck it first time with the outside of his right foot and Lewis could only wave it goodbye as it flashed behind him.
Griffiths came close to netting a third right on the half-time whistle when he was set up by Mikael Lustig, but his attempt zipped past the upright.
The Dons were living dangerously after the break and only a last-ditch block from Ash Taylor prevented Sinclair from getting on the scoresheet.
Rogic sent a nice ball to Kieran Tireney rampaging on the left. He picked out the former Aston Villa player who swiftly hammered an effort towards goal, but Taylor managed to divert it wide.
In the 57th minute, Rodgers took off his goalscorers Griffiths and Forrest and put on Moussa Dembele and Patrick Roberts, the on-loan wide-man making his first appearance since being injured in the 2-1 win over Astana on August 3.
Roberts came close to setting up the third for the Hoops with a typical run and pass inside, but Dembele’s control let him down and the ball broke to Nir Bitton who thumped it past the post.
However, Sinclair made certain with an expert penalty-kick three minutes from the end after desperate defender Mark Reynolds had clattered into the Englishman and was ordered off for his troubles after picking up his second yellow card from referee Bobby Madden.
Lewis had no chance whatsoever as the £4.5million attacker calmly sent the ball unerringly into the corner.
And it was the same story only moments later when Rogic got the goal he deserved with another outstanding free-kick strike that zoomed towards its target.
It was an emphatic scoreline at the end, but Brendan Rodgers will undoubtedly be asking for more from his players to put the game to bed a lot earlier, especially when they have so much of the play.
TEAM: De Vries; Lustig, Toure, Sviatchenko, Tierney; Brown, Bitton (sub: McGregor 81); Forrest (sub: Roberts 57), Rogic, Sinclair; Griffiths (sub: Dembele 57).