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HIGH FIVES – AND IT’S CELTIC’S 49th FLAG

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CELTIC rampaged their way to a 5-0 triumph over their helpless Ibrox foes on this day three years ago.

It was a day of double celebration – an overwhelming victory over their Glasgow rivals which coincided with the club lifting their 49th title.

Author Alex Gordon highlights another memorable day in the glorious history of the club in his latest book, ’50 Flags Plus One’, which covers Celtic’s untainted 51 titles, winning their first crown in 1893.

Alex, a veteran of fifteen Hoops publications, looks back at a pulverising, championship-winning occasion in an edited chapter from the tribute tome.

THE afternoon of April 29 2018 was built for smiles. Rangers were due to visit and Celtic were ninety minutes away from another crown. No West End impresario could have stage-managed it with such flawless timing.

There was only going to be one winner that fateful day in the east end of the city. Celtic triumphed 5-0 and the only surprise was that the players visibly eased off to a leisurely stroll with thirty-seven minutes still to play. The Ibrox men realised they had escaped with a five-goal drubbing. Celtic’s 7-1 League Cup Final victory at Hampden Park in 1957 is the club’s biggest victory in the derby match and the gap could have been obliterated on this occasion.

The contest manifested into a slaughter in the sun as Celtic swept their mesmerised opponents aside with a relentless, ruthless performance of high intensity, pure energy, outstanding finishing and a fair injection of quality. Graeme Murty knew his days as caretaker manager were over as he stood dumbstruck on the touchline, barely focusing on events unfolding in front of him as Rodgers’ side raced to a five-goal advantage by the fifty-third minute.

It had been the third time the Irishman had seen his side score five goals against the Govan outfit after they had settled for a 4-0 triumph a fortnight earlier in the Scottish Cup semi-final. In truth, as the manager conceded afterwards, Celtic should have scored more than five. Odsonne Edouard skimmed across the perfect playing surface to stick two in the net with James Forrest, claiming his first-ever strike against the Ibrox side, Callum McGregor and, almost inevitably, Tom Rogic joining in.

Their foes from across the Clyde now looked forward to meetings with their Glasgow neighbours much in the same way the blissfully unenlightened embraced swimming in a pool with a couple of particularly bad-tempered great whites.

Brendan Rodgers revelled in the team’s seventh successive title triumph – and the forty-ninth in history – and smiled when he had been reminded it had been the first time in thirty-nine years Celtic, then bossed by the legendary Billy McNeill, had clinched the flag against the Ibrox side.

Rodgers acknowledged: “Our basic rules today were very simple. It was to attack with real aggression and intensity, try and recover the ball as quickly as we could whenever we lost it. If we couldn’t do that, make sure we were tight and compact, look to dominate as much of the ball as we could and give it our best shot. And I don’t think I could have asked any more of the players.

“They were absolutely brilliant and I’m really proud. These games are full of emotion, but we said to the players beforehand that we obviously knew the consequences of the game and all the historical facts around it, but we said to them that they had to play football.”

He continued: “For us and our fans, it was a special day to wrap up the title. I’m really pleased with how the players coped with that pressure and expectancy. To then go and stay as calm as they did, but play with that intent in the game was really pleasing and the supporters obviously responded to it. There won’t be too many atmospheres like there was today around the world. It was a real special atmosphere and it was great that we could make our supporters happy.”

He added: “We should have had seven, but we’ll take five. The performance was outstanding. This title is definitely better than last time, even though we went unbeaten last year. To come in again this season with very little break and perform like we’ve done, playing a number of games under pressure, we’ve done that very, very well.”

With the latest result, Rodgers had gone eleven games unbeaten against the Govan outfit, winning nine and drawing two. He had also seen his side rattle in thirty goals during the encounters and concede only six. Moussa Dembele was top scorer with seven and other marksmen were Scott Sinclair (4), Tom Rogic (4), Callum McGregor (4). Odsonne Edouard (3), Leigh Griffiths (2), Stuart Armstrong (2), Dedryck Boyata, Mikael Lustig, Olivier Ntcham and James Forrest.

The recollection of an eventful 2017/18 season is told with insider knowledge by Alex Gordon, a former Sports Editor of the Sunday Mail, whose latest book, ’50 Flags Plus One’, is hailed by Lisbon Lion Bertie Auld as “a truly unique tribute to Celtic”.

John Hughes, the club’s seventh highest goalscorer in history, adds: “It’s an amazing journey of several lifetimes.”

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