GLASGOW, Sept 10, (AFP): Moussa Dembele grabbed a hat-trick on his debut as Celtic thrashed 10 men Rangers 5-1 at Parkhead in the first Old Firm derby in four years. The French striker, only playing due to an injury to top scorer Leigh Griffiths, became the first player to score a hat-trick in the fixture since Ally McCoists treble in the 1983 League Cup final.
He opened the scoring with a header in the 34th minute before firing home a fine solo finish to double Celtics advantage eight minutes later. Rangers pulled one back in the 45th minute through Joe Garner but Dembele then set up Scott Sinclair to make it 3-1.
The former Fulham forward then sealed the first Celtic hat-trick in an Old Firm league fixture since 1966 in the 84th minute after Rangers had been reduced to 10 men as Philippe Senderos picked up a second booking for a deliberate handball.
Substitute Stuart Armstrong finished the scoring in stoppage time to continue Celtics 100 per cent start to the season as they move four points clear of Rangers with a game in hand against their Old Firm foes. It was the perfect start for Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers in his first Old Firm match in charge.
It was an outstanding team performance and a great day for the club, he said. It was a very dominant performance and I thought we showed a lot of great traits in the game. His Rangers counterpart Mark Warburton couldnt hide his upset at the manner of defeat.
Im obviously disappointed but thats not strong enough in terms of a description, Weve got to be better than that. Good players make good decisions and too many times today we made poor decisions in possession. Off the pitch the atmosphere was electric as the two sets of fans introduced themselves to each other following a four year absence in the Scottish Premiership.
However, the entertainment on it was limited until Celtic grabbed the opener. The Rangers defence switched off and Dembele was allowed a free run to head home Sinclairs corner in off the post. The Celtic striker has been living in the shadow of goal machine Griffiths since the start of the season but the French forward grabbed his opportunity and fired the Hoops further in front.
Kiernans slack pass was intercepted by Bitton who slid a pass through for Dembele and the French striker turned Senderos before clipping the ball past Wes Foderingham. Rangers hopes appeared to be slipping away but they pulled a goal back from nowhere on the verge of half-time.
James Taverniers cross was headed back across goal by Kenny Miller and Garner leapt to nod the ball over the line from close range for his first goal for Rangers. The visitors started the second half with more energy as Andy Halliday replaced Niko Krancjar and came close to an equaliser when Barrie McKay curled an effort inches wide of Dorus de Vries far post.
However, it was the Hoops who increased their lead through Sinclair. Dembele split the Rangers defence as he slipped the ball through for the former Manchester City winger who calmly slide the ball past Foderingham and in off the post.
Worse was to come for Rangers in the 75th minute as Kiernan limped off injured before Senderos saw red as he bizarrely opted to punch the ball away after a mistimed jump to pick up his second booking. This left Rangers with just Lee Wallace and Tavernier as recognised defenders and Celtic took advantage as Dembele sealed his hat-trick with a low shot beyond Foderingham. Armstrong completed the rout late on as he fired an angled shot past the Rangers keeper to finish a free-flowing passing move.