BRENDAN RODGERS hailed his “brilliant” Celtic team as they overwhelmed Kilmarnock 5-1 at Parkhead this afternoon.
The dominating display saw the seven-in-a-row champions surge back to the top of the Premiership to end the Ayrshire outfit’s brief flirtation with pole position.
The Hoops, who are now two points clear, scored five goals, hit the woodwork twice and were denied at least one penalty-kick by a referee who gifted one to Killie at the start of the second-half – not that it mattered with the home side already four goals ahead.
James Forrest, Odsonne Edouard, Mikael Lustig – with his first of the season – and Ryan Christie had all hit the target in a spectacular opening half as the visitors were swept aside by an exhilarating exhibition of pace and precision.
Eamonn Brophy drilled the spot-kick award under the diving Craig Gordon before on-fire Forrest thundered the fifth into the roof from a tight angle.
The Scotland international raider might have walked a way with another matchball if he hadn’t been denied by Daniel Bachmann’s right-hand post and Scott Sinclair was out of luck, too, with a curling effort that came back off the crossbar.
Beaming Rodgers said: “It was a brilliant team performance. Kilmarnock have been outstanding in the work Steve has done with them, especially in terms of how compact they are. They haven’t conceded a goal in four games until today.
“I feel that competition will make us better. We always focus on our own standard, of course, but the competition helps you improve. Our performance did the talking today, as did the level and hunger of the players. It was a great day and good for the supporters, as well.
EXCEPTIONAL…the highly-rated Ryan Christie. Pic: Geo.
“How we played was near on perfect in terms of our positioning in between their lines. It was very good. I’m so happy with the performance. Lots of short passes made it difficult for Kilmarnock to get there.
“it was a very good win for us. We scored five goals and hit the crossbar and the post in the second half. We scored four really good goals. It was four very good finishes. Our pressing and shape was very good.”
The manager started the game with skipper Scott Brown on the bench while Kieran Tierney wasn’t in the squad.
Rodgers added: “I have compassion for players, especially for ones who done amazingly for me, but what I don’t have is sentimentality. It’s very clear for me that if a team’s playing well, that’s where it’s at.
“We don’t rely on just 11 players, we need more than that. The level and fluency of the team was great. My job is to pick a team that can win games and win titles. Callum McGregor and Ryan Christie, along with Tom Rogic, have been exceptional, not just in their football, but how they press the game.
“Kieran wasn’t quite right. We could have put him in, but it would have been a risk when we have someone like Emilio there, who was outstanding today. Kieran should be fine and ready for Thursday.
“He had a slight issue around his groin area and we didn’t want to risk it. He wants to play every second of every game, but you need to be sensible about it.”