Celtic 3 – 0 Rangers

Celtic blew Rangers away in the second Old Firm clash of the season to seal a 3-0 win and move top of the Scottish Premiership for the first time since August as the title race took another twist.

Reo Hatate gave the hosts the perfect start when he fired home from the edge of the area after just five minutes.

Allan McGregor was forced into a number of saves before Hatate doubled the lead three minutes before half-time with a curling effort after a fine Celtic move, and Liel Abada added a third before half-time (44) from close range.

Ryan Jack hit the crossbar in the second half for Rangers but Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s first Old Firm game as manager ended in a heavy defeat.

The result means Celtic are one point above Rangers and top the Scottish Premiership for the first time since beating St Mirren on August 21.

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Reo Hatate gives Celtic an early lead in the Old Firm clash at Celtic Park.

How Celtic returned to the top…

The hosts started brightly and almost took the lead after three minutes when the ball fell to Greg Taylor in the box but the defender’s shot was cleared.

However, minutes later Hatate put Celtic in front as he switched the ball from his left to right foot on the edge of the box then rifled a shot into the net.

Rangers struggled to get a foothold in the game and an unbelievable double save by goalkeeper Allan McGregor in the 15th minute prevented both Jota and Giorgos Giakoumakis adding to Celtic’s lead.

The Ibrox No 1 showed his quality again soon after as he stretched to turn the ball away as Giakoumakis came close to firing Liel Abada’s cross in.

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Reo Hatate doubles Celtic’s lead with a stunning finish.

Another chance came Celtic’s way in the 27th minute, Josip Juranovic curled in the ball but once again McGregor was on hand to deny Giakoumakis from six yards.

Rangers went on the counter-attack but Amad Diallo overhit his pass to Ryan Kent and Hatate was there to clear. Kent then cut in from the left and tried a shot from 30 yards but his weak effort was easily gathered by Celtic keeper Joe Hart.

A lapse in concentration from the Celtic defence almost gifted Rangers an equaliser in the 41st minute. Scott Arfield was inches from getting on the end of Joe Aribo’s ball when goalkeeper Hart dived to gather.

Celtic recovered immediately and Hatate had them 2-0 up less than a minute later, the Japanese midfielder curling a lovely ball beyond McGregor.

The stadium was rocking and Abada got in on the action to make it 3-0 before half-time. Hatate looped over a cross and, with the Rangers defence sleeping, the forward stabbed the ball into the net.

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Liel Abada gives a Celtic a commanding 3-0 lead after a dominant first-half performance.

Rangers were so far off the pace of Celtic and Van Bronckhorst made three changes at half-time with Fashion Sakala Jr, Jack and Leon Balogun replacing Amad Diallo, Glen Kamara and Borna Barisic.

The visitors had a spell of possession at the start of the second half but still could not really threaten in front of goal.

Scott Arfield’s half-volley flew over the crossbar in the 55th minute before Kent looked to set up Cedric Itten, but the striker was too slow and the ball went out for a goal kick.

Celtic could not keep up the intense pace they showed in the early stages and there was a standing ovation for Hatate when the Japanese midfielder was replaced by James McCarthy in the 73rd minute.

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Ryan Jack tries to get Rangers back into the game, but his long-range effort clatters back off the bar.

Rangers’ frustration continued to build with captain James Tavernier and Balogun picking up bookings in quick succession for challenges on Jota and James Forrest.

The visitors were unlucky not to pull a goal back with 10 minutes left as Jack burst forward and his 30-yard strike crashed off the crossbar.

Celtic then went looking for more and Rangers keeper McGregor, who was the visitors’ best player, tipped Matt O’Riley’s effort over the bar late on.

What’s next?

Motherwell host Celtic on Sunday, live on Sky Sports Football; kick-off 1.30pm while Hearts visit Rangers on the same day at 4pm, live on Sky Sports Football.

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