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Dembele scores hat-trick as Celtic rout Rangers

Glasgow (AFP) – Celtic striker Moussa Dembele described his Old Firm debut hat-trick as a dream come true as he helped the Hoops hammer rivals Rangers 5-1 at Parkhead on Saturday.

The 20-year-old became the first player to score a hat-trick in the fixture since Ally McCoist’s treble in the 1984 League Cup final and the first Celtic player to achieve the feat in an Old Firm league match in 50 years.

“It was a perfect day. It is a dream to come here and start your first Old Firm game and score a hat-trick,” Dembele said.

“It is something special when you play in an Old Firm derby and I was glad to make the fans happy.

“It was unbelievable and a day I will remember all my life.”

The French forward was only playing due to an injury to top scorer Leigh Griffiths and has been living in the Scottish striker’s shadow since his summer move.

But the former Fulham player grabbed his opportunity in spectacular fashion and says he will be ready to lead the line against Barcelona on Tuesday as the Hoops start their Champions League campaign away to the Spanish champions.

“When the manager needs me I am here and today I showed what I am about and that I can be good for the team,” Dembele said.

“I think everyone knows we are a good group and when someone is not here then someone else will replace them and will be ready to give their best.

“If I get to start against Barcelona I will be ready.

“When you come to a big club like Celtic you expect to play big games and that’s what we did today and will again on Tuesday so it’s good.”

– ‘Great day’ –

It was a perfect start for Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers too as he claimed an emphatic win in his first Old Firm match in charge to continue Celtic’s 100percent start to the season and move four points clear of Rangers with a game in hand.

“It was a great day for the club and the team. It was everything I expected and more,” an emotional Rodgers said.

“My father is five years dead today so it was ironic we scored five goals.

“The supporters were incredible and they lifted the team.

“Every supporter loves a team that works tirelessly and works hard and that’s what this team did today and they got their reward as they have quality.

“It was a special occasion and it’s obviously nice to be on the winning side.”

Rodgers also singled out Dembele for praise as he scored the perfect hat-trick with a header, right-foot and then left-foot strike.

“They were three great goals from a 20-year-old player. You can see he’s a big talent and hopefully he’s come to a club that can develop that talent,” the former Liverpool manager said.

“He could have got a lot more money than he’s getting here but he’s come here and his attitude has been refreshing.

“He’s still young with a bit of work to do but I’m very pleased for him to get a hat-trick on such a special occasion as this.”

Before the match the talk had centred on the midfield battle between Joey Barton and Scott Brown and the Celtic captain came out on top as he drove his side forward from the start.

Barton, renowned for his outspoken nature, had previously taken aim at the Celtic skipper on social media and Rodgers had a dig back at the former Manchester City midfielder after the match.

“Scott Brown does his talking on the field. He led the team and is a very respectful guy,” the Celtic manager said.

“He bossed the game in the middle of the field today. He showed his power, he showed his strength, showed his leadership qualities and of course I want that in every game.”

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