Celtic overthrew Rangers at the Scottish Premiership summit after Reo Hatate inspired a resounding 3-0 victory in the Old Firm derby at Parkhead on Wednesday.
Hatate continued his blistering start to life at Celtic with a first-half double that played a crucial role in securing a first league win against Rangers since September 2019.
The Japanese midfielder set up Liel Abada with a tantalising cross two minutes after netting his second of the game, practically ending Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s hopes of salvaging a result in his first Old Firm at the Rangers helm.
Rangers’ 21-game unbeaten run in the league consequently came to an ignominious end, with Ange Postecoglou’s first win over Celtic’s arch-rivals sending his team one point clear at the top.
Celtic took a fifth-minute lead when Hatate’s effort from the edge of the box deflected off Glen Kamara and found the bottom-right corner.
Allan McGregor produced a brilliant double-save to keep Jota and Giorgos Giakoumakis at bay, but he was helpless when Hatate curled in a second in the 42nd minute.
Hatate then turned provider before half-time, crossing for Abada to steer home after Rangers were caught napping by a quick throw-in.
Rangers tightened up after the restart but found it difficult to create chances to test Joe Hart, although Ryan Jack rattled the crossbar with a 30-yard piledriver in the 79th minute.
Celtic were able to comfortably see out the victory, and the new league leaders are now unbeaten in 18 straight top-flight matches.
What does it mean? A shift in Rangers’ outlook
Rangers just could not keep track of Celtic’s interchanging attack in a blistering first-half display, and it ultimately cost them their place at the top of the league.
The defeat sees Rangers go from being on a 21-game undefeated streak to having won just one of their past four matches in the top flight.
A Reo-lly good start
Hatate was named man of the match on his debut against Hibernian last month and scored a screamer at Hearts the following week. The 24-year-old produced another stand-out display, with two goals and an assist making it a maiden Old Firm outing to remember.
Barisic ball watches
Had Rangers gone into half-time at 2-0 down, they may have had hope of mounting a second-half comeback. However, Borna Barisic was completely idle as Abada nipped in front of him to get Celtic’s third before the break. He did not return for the second half.
Celtic head to Motherwell on Sunday, when Rangers face another difficult challenge at home to Hearts.
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