MIGHTY and magnificent Moussa Dembele thumped in a spectacular hat-trick to tear apart the opposition in the Glasgow derby at a rocking Celtic Park in the High Noon shoot-out.
The French striker, in for the injured Leigh Griffiths, ran amok as he rattled in a perfect threesome – one with the head, one with the right foot and one with the left.
It was a pulverising performance from Brendan Rodgers side that left the 60,000 supporters at the game and the millions watching on TV with two questions:
How did Celtic only score five goals?
How did the Ibrox side manage to score a consolation effort?
The champions started on the front foot and, apart from a hiccup just before half-time, they were relentless as they shredded their rivals.
Joey Barton made a big thing about “being in a different league from Scott Brown” a month ago. If he continues to play like this and his team-mates don’t raise their game, he will be absolutely right!
It was a masterful display from the Hoops and it was amazing that it took until the 34th minute to score the breakthrough goal.
James Forrest was getting a lot of joy on the right wing and Tom Rogic was in control of the midfield with some subtle promptings.
However, it took a corner-kick, after Wes Foderingham had blocked a close-range drive from Scott Sinclair, to get the deserved opening goal.
Sinclair sent over the left-wing cross and Dembele raced in to plant a header into the net from six yards with the Ibrox defence all over the place.
And it was the French Under-21 international who doubled Celtic’s advantage eight minutes later when Nir Bitton threaded through a pass after intercepting a wayward forward ball from Rob Kiernan, who looked totally out of his depth.
Dembele sold a superb dummy to Phillipe Senderos, who had a wretched game, before tucking the ball away with the outside of his right foot.
Remarkably, the home side conceded just before the interval when goalkeeper Dorus de Vries failed to come to collect a right-wing cross from James Tavernier. Kenny Miller met the ball at the back post and again the Dutchman was caught under the ball. Joe Garner beat Kolo Toure to head in from practically under the crossbar.
Rodgers’ champions weren’t knocked out of their stride, though, and continued to dominate the second-half. Stuart Armstrong replaced Rogic in the 54th minute and his strong running upset the Govan outfit.
In the 61st minute, Celtic scored again and this time it was Sinclair who finished in style after an excellent pass from Man of the Match Dembele. The former Aston Villa star walloped the ball low past Foderingham at his left-hand post.
Moments later, the Ibrox keeper was involved again as he dived to his right to push away a vicious 20-yard drive from Armstrong.
It was all one-way traffic as the Bhoys stormed forward looking for more goals and it was no suprise when Dembele scored again in the 83rd minute after Senderos had been sent off a few minutes earlier for handling the ball. The debutant had been booked earlier and didn’t bother arguing with referee Willie Collum as he ran straight off the field. He looked relieved to be leaving the onslaught.
This time it was Mikael Lustig who picked out Dembele with a neat cross from the right and the frontman killed it in one movement and then lashed a left-foot drive into the corner of the net.
The Celtic faithful had another goal to celebrate in stoppage time when Sinclair and Kieran Tierney combined on the left to set up Armstrong and he thumped a low drive into the corner of the net.
It was a wonderful way to end a marvellous derby. Next stop Barcelona at the Nou Camp!
TEAM: De Vries; Lustig, Toure, Sviatchenko, Tierney; Brown (sub: McGregor 73), Bitton; Forrest (sub: Roberts 63), Rogic (sub: Armstrong 54), Sinclair; Dembele.