Reo Hatate marked his first Old Firm derby with two goals and an assist as Celtic thumped rivals Rangers 3-0 to go top of the Scottish Premiership on Wednesday in front of a packed, 60,000-strong house at Parkhead.
Celtic, who had their first win against their close rivals in six league games, made a superb start, securing their first goal after six minutes when Rangers cleared a corner directly to Hatate — whose deflected shot from the edge of the box skidded beyond Allan McGregor.
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The home side had chances to make it 2-0 but were denied by McGregor, who parried Jota‘s ferocious volley, after poor defending by James Tavernier, and the follow-up header by Georgios Giakoumakis, who leapt above Connor Goldson to put an attempt on target.
Minutes later, McGregor was alert to another attempt by Giakoumakis after a fine play down the right flank by Matthew O’Riley and Liel Abada.
Midway through the first half, Rangers struggled with Celtic’s pace, with McGregor pressed into another close-range save to deny Giakoumakis after he latched onto Abada’s low cross.
However, Ange Postecoglou’s side would add to their lead towards the end of the first half, with two goals in two minutes to give them a commanding 3-0 lead.
After a Rangers attack broke down when Joe Aribo misplayed a pass for Scott Arfield, Celtic countered with O’Riley and Hatate, with the latter man curling a shot beyond McGregor from 25 yards.
Hatate then turned provider, beating Tavernier down the left flank before firing a cross for Abada, who met it on the volley to slam it home.
Rangers made three substitutions at half-time, but the second half brought little in the way of a comeback as Celtic continued to press for more goals.
Giakoumakis narrowly missed an O’Riley cross to the back post five minutes into the second half as Abada, Hatate and Jota continued to run at a beleaguered Rangers defence.
Despite being 3-0 down, Rangers pushed for a consolation goal over the final 20 minutes, with U.S. international defender Cameron Carter-Vickers denying Kemar Roofe a close-range header.
Rangers substitute Ryan Jack also rifled a long-range shot off the crossbar and forced a sharp clearance from Celtic defender Carl Starfelt, though nothing would get past Joe Hart in goal.
Celtic had plenty of opportunities to add a fourth as well, with McGregor denying Jota from a corner and then palming O’Riley’s speculative volley over the bar from a narrow angle.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side suffered their first defeat in 13 games, and the victory puts Celtic a point ahead of Rangers at the top of the table with 14 rounds of matches remaining.
Celtic travel to fourth-place Motherwell on Sunday, while Rangers will attempt to regroup with a home game against in-form third-place Hearts.