Glasgow (AFP) – Celtic leapfrogged rivals Rangers to move top of the Scottish Premiership with a comprehensive 4-1 win over 10-man Aberdeen at Parkhead on Saturday.
Leigh Griffiths fired Celtic into a 13th-minute lead before Aberdeen equalised against the run of play through Adam Rooney in the 32nd minute.
James Forrest restored Celtic’s advantage just prior to half-time and Scott Sinclair netted a late penalty after Mark Reynolds was sent off for the visitors.
Australian international Tom Rogic put the seal on a fine win with a free-kick in stoppage time as the Hoops moved a point clear of rivals Rangers at the top of the table with a game in hand ahead of the first Old Firm clash of the season on September 10.
“I thought it was arguably our best result of the season just because of everything that has happened before it,” said Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers after what was his first league match at Parkhead.
“To end up scoring four goals against a very good side really shows the mental and physical fitness of the players.”
Meanwhile, Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes felt his side could have got something from the game.
“I think 4-1 is really harsh on the team,” said McInnes after seeing his team’s unbeaten start in the league come to an end.
“I thought we had good opportunities to get an equaliser. We went toe-to-toe with Celtic and then the referee gets involved with the penalty kick and it was never a free-kick with Rogic.”
– Gordon dropped –
Following his unconvincing performance in the 2-0 midweek defeat to Hapoel Beer-Sheva of Israel in the Champions League play-offs, Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon dropped to the bench as Dutchman Dorus de Vries was handed his debut while Rogic replaced Callum McGregor.
The Socceroo star came close to the opener in the 10th minute as he collected a pass from Forrest before cracking a fierce left-foot shot that smacked the bar.
Celtic weren’t to be denied four minutes later, though, as Griffiths gave his side the lead with a sensational strike.
The striker collected a pass from Forrest and nutmegged Kenny McLean before unleashing an unstoppable shot that crashed into the top corner off the inside of the post.
Celtic had been dominant but Aberdeen managed to conjure an equaliser out of nothing.
Niall McGinn’s cut-back was cut out by Kolo Toure but it was Rooney who reacted quickest to pounce on the loose ball and blast an angled shot past De Vries into the bottom corner.
However, it didn’t take long for Celtic to restore their advantage through Forrest. Rogic took out the Aberdeen defence with an excellent threaded pass to the winger who curled a superb shot round Joe Lewis with the outside of his right foot.
Former Manchester City forward Sinclair got his third league goal of the season late on as he sent Lewis the wrong way with a penalty he had won himself, being fouled by Reynolds who was dismissed.
Rogic then curled a free-kick from the edge of the box into the bottom corner to confirm Aberdeen’s 23rd consecutive league defeat at Celtic Park.
On Friday, Rangers had to settle for a point against Kilmarnock as they came from behind to claim a 1-1 draw at Rugby Park, James Tavernier’s free-kick cancelling out Kris Boyd’s first-half opener.
Hearts moved into third after a 2-1 win over Partick Thistle, while Hamilton Academical defeated Ross County 1-0 and Motherwell drew 0-0 with Dundee.
Elsewhere, Inverness Caledonian Thistle remain bottom despite picking up their first points of the season in a 2-1 win over St Johnstone.
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