Glasgow (AFP) – Moussa Dembele grabbed a double as Celtic warmed up for their Champions League tie against Manchester City with a 6-1 thrashing of Kilmarnock on Saturday.
Souleymane Coulibaly silenced Celtic Park with a sensational 35-yard strike to give Kilmarnock the lead against the run of play just after the half-hour mark.
However, Killie’s joy was short-lived as Dembele struck in the 35th and 37th minutes, before James Forrest added a third in the 52nd minute and substitute Leigh Griffiths headed home on 66 minutes.
Scott Sinclair then netted from the penalty spot as he scored for the sixth successive league match for the Hoops and Australian international Tom Rogic wrapped up the scoring five minutes from time to move Celtic five points clear of Hearts, who were held to a goalless draw by Ross County, with a game in hand.
Old Firm rivals Rangers are seven points off top spot and face a tough trip to take on Aberdeen on Sunday.
“It was a brilliant team performance. They scored a goal out of nowhere but we stayed calm and created chances and played very well,” Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers said. “To win a game 6-1 gives us incredible confidence.”
Kilmarnock manager Lee Clark said his side couldn’t cope with Celtic in the second half.
“They stepped it up a level. At half-time we still felt if we did things right without the ball we might give ourselves a fighting chance to get back in the game but we simply got blown away in the second half,” Clark said.
“It was men against boys in every aspect. We had some young boys out there and it showed but we’ve got to learn from it.”
– Strong side –
With one eye on Wednesday’s tough test against English Premier League leaders City, Celtic named a strong side and Griffiths had to make do with a place on the bench after returning from a four-match injury lay-off.
The Hoops were well on top early on but it was Kilmarnock who took the lead through a sensational Coulibaly strike.
The Ivorian-born forward collected the ball with his back to goal before spinning and sending a looping shot that caught the back-tracking Dorus de Vries off his line and the goalkeeper, who should have done better, could only watch it sail over his head.
However, they held their lead for little over two minutes as Celtic responded swiftly through Dembele, the French striker firing a first-time shot beyond Jamie MacDonald from a Mikael Lustig pass.
Celtic then went in front for the first time in the match less than two minutes later as Dembele grabbed his 10th goal of the season. Hoops captain Scott Brown drove his team forward before picking out Kieran Tierney, who cut the ball back from the left for Dembele to slam home.
De Vries, who has shipped 12 goals in five games for the Hoops, was replaced at the break by Craig Gordon and Celtic soon moved further ahead. Forrest played a neat one-two with Rogic before firing past MacDonald with the outside of his right boot.
Dembele was replaced by Griffiths in the 64th minute and two minutes later the substitute had his eighth goal of the season when he applied the finishing touch to Jozo Simunovic’s net-bound header.
Griffiths was then brought down in the box by Gary Dicker to earn his side a penalty which Sinclair dispatched to keep on track to equal Celtic legend Jimmy McGrory’s long-standing club record of scoring in eight consecutive league matches for the Hoops.
Socceroo star Rogic completed the rout late on as his weak effort from just inside the box bounced over MacDonald.
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