Far more notable than Celtic reaching 61 domestic games in succession without defeat was the consummate ease with which they swatted aside a supposed threat.
Celtic entered this game level with Aberdeen at the top and departed having endorsed their superiority. If the notion of a title race in Scotland remains a contrived one, Celtic are clearly still of a mind to make plain their unwillingness to suffer challenges. It would be churlish to focus only on Aberdeen’s lame attempts to keep pace here; the visitors played in stunning style.
This was Celtic’s most complete showing of the season or, in Brendan Rodgers’ words, a “wonderful demonstration of football”. They were assisted in part by Aberdeen but the champions played at a level which should have returned more than a 3-0 victory. “I can understand why people might think we could drop points here but we coped with that,” Celtic’s manager said. “I hear a lot about the ease at which Celtic do it, but you have to give credit to our players.” Derek McInnes, the Aberdeen manager, admitted his team were taught “a lesson”. Whereas Bayern Munich dismantled Celtic seven days earlier, Rodgers’s team did precisely the same to Aberdeen.
The rare modern day sight of a sold-out Pittodrie illustrated expectation in the north-east. Aberdeen’s hope was surely intensified by the timing of this fixture; Celtic visited in the midst of a run which includes back-to-back Champions League meetings with Bayern and a League Cup semi-final, as negotiated on Saturday. Perhaps awareness of that external sense even heightened Celtic’s motivation.
Thoughts of Celtic offering glimmers of hope to domestic opponents had been completely undermined by the length of their run. That Rodgers could restore Moussa Dembélé to the starting XI while leaving Leigh Griffiths, Scott Sinclair and Patrick Roberts among his substitutes also hinted at the scale of Aberdeen’s task. Ryan Christie, arguably their best player, is a Celtic loanee and was therefore unavailable.
Celtic were to display the art of attacking in virtually their first meaningful foray. In doing so, they set the tone. A lovely flick by Tom Rogic played in Dembélé, who found Kieran Tierney, marauding into the back post from his position at left-back. He duly supplied a crashing first-time finish. It was merely the latest act of brilliance from the 20-year-old defender, who is catching the attention of England’s biggest clubs.
Celtic took complete control of the first half from that point, with Aberdeen displaying no belief in terms of hauling themselves back into the game. Their task was rendered even stiffer six minutes before the interval, as Tierney broke superbly on the left flank. The defender’s cross was bundled home by Dembélé. Celtic’s dominance was such that Aberdeen were fortunate to reach their dressing room at only two behind.
Aberdeen’s struggles continued into the second half. James Forrest and Dembélé passed up glorious opportunities for a third before the French striker found himself in a position from where he could not miss. Dedryck Boyata headed a Stuart Armstrong free-kick back into Dembélé’s path, the former Fulham player heading into the empty net for a fourth goal in two outings.
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