ABERDEEN 0 CELTIC 3
CELTIC picked up where they left off last season with a well-merited victory over Aberdeen.
The two best teams in the country locked horns at Pittodrie this evening with the Dons eager for revenge following the six successive defeats in the previous campaign, topped up with the Scottish Cup Final loss in May.
There was talk of revenge and retribution, but by the time the half-time whistle shrilled in the cold north east sky the accolades were already heading back to Glasgow.
And Celtic were putting three points between them and Derek McInnes’ outfit at the top of the Premiership and still very much on course for seven in a row.
This was a comprehensive, professional performance from the champions and yet again Brendan Rodgers picked the right men for the job.
He started with Moussa Dembele leading the attack and his faith was repaid with a second consecutive double from the French hitman following his second-half exploits against Hibs in the 4-2 victory at Hampden on Saturday.
James Forrest came in for Paddy Roberts on the right and proved to be a more direct threat against the Dons’ left side and Tom Rogic got the nod for a midfield place.
Scotty Sinclair, Leigh Griffiths and Jonny Hayes were all on the bench at the start, but all three got a chance to stretch their legs before the end.
To be fair, the Dons started brightly and Craig Gordon had to look smart to save two awkward efforts by Graeme Shinnie from just outside the box.
However, in the 13th minute the Hoops struck with devastating efficiency and remarkable finishing.
Dedryck Boyata slid a pass to the excellent Rogic who sent Dembele away with a wonderful little flick. The striker powered away from Andy Considine before lashing a low ball across goal.
Callum McGregor couldn’t get a touch on the inviting pass, but Kieran Tierney, coming in like an express train from the left, exploded an unstoppable angled drive into the net off the underside of the crossbar.
There can be little doubt that the international left-back doesn’t know how to score a simple goal. This one was in the spectacular category.
Five minutes later, Rogic, so difficult to shift off the ball with his close control, drifted in from the right, but keeper Joe Lewis threw himself to the right to fist away his left-foot drive from 18 yards.
Celtic had taken control of the contest and Scott Brown was flitting around, picking up, fetching, tackling and passing. The Dons were chasing shadows.
In the 24th minute, Dembele sent a head-flick into the path of Rogic who was hauled to the turf by Kari Arnason. Craig Thomson awarded the anticipated free-kick and Stuart Armstrong was not far away with a 25-yard effort that zipped just wide of Lewis’ right-hand post.
The free-flowing football of the visitors was a treat to watch – unless you were of the red persuasion – and a second goal just had to arrive and it duly did in the 39th minute.
This time goalscorer Tierney became goalmaker with a quick-thinking run down the left after taking the return of a throw-in to Brown. He skipped past Shay Logan, took a touch, looked up and sent over a cross to the far post.
The accuracy of the ball took out Lewis and defender Scott McKenna and Dembele, with his natural predatory instinct, came thundering in at pace to divert an effort into the net.
Game over? Maybe not, but it could have been just on half-time when Forrest got clear on the right. He sizzled a finishing drive into the sidenet, but he could – and possibly should – have netted number three that would have put the game beyond the hosts.
A minute after the restart, some good work on the left between Rogic and Tierney saw Dembele released and he picked out Armstrong lurking at the edge of the box. Unfortunately, the midfielder, a tireless worker all night, failed to get strength behind his finishing effort and it flew tamely into the arms of a grateful Lewis.
Celtic were turning the screw at this point as they attempted to kill any notion the Dons had of an unlikely fightback.
Dembele sent a curler into the chest of Lewis and then Armstrong, after a lung-bursting run down the left, was just too high with a dangerous cross for the comeback striker who looked eager and in the mood.
In the 56th minute, Mikael Lustig went on an eye-catching sortie down the right before passing inside for Rogic, but the Aussie, who scored four goals in eight games last season against the Dons, cut across the ball and his left-foot effort flashed past the far post.
Only 60 seconds later, the Hoops passed up an even better opportunity to double their advantage.
Armstrong’s pass into the tracks of Forrest was breathtaking, the winger was foiled as Lewis spread himself to his right to push the ball away and Dembele’s scrambled effort from the rebound was hacked for a corner-kick by Arnason.
In the 62nd minute, with utter inevitability, Celtic scored a deserved third goal and the game as a competition was effectively over.
McKenna was rightly booked for a lunge at Dembele on the left wing and the Dons paid the ultimate price.
Armstrong lofted in a free-kick to the back post, Boyata arrived to nod the ball across goal and Dembele was practically under the crossbar as he diverted it into the net.
Rodgers’ men went into cruise control after that as the Celtic fans chanted: “Ten in a row.”
Aberdeen wondered if it was directed at them. Another three league wins this season and the magical double figures will have been achieved in two seasons.
Certainly, this was a marker to let everyone know who is the best team in the country.
There can be no arguments after this display from the champions that simply demoralised their challengers. Again.
TEAM: Gordon; Lustig, Bitton, Boyata, Tierney; Brown, Armstrong; Forrest (sub: Hayes 76), Rogic (sub: Sinclair 72), McGregor; Dembele (sub: Griffiths 81).