Jonny Hayes opens Celtic account in win over former club Aberdeen
Brendan Rodgers’s side go eight points clear at the top in Scotland
Jonny Hayes scores his Celtic’s second goal e during the Scottish Premiership match against Aberdeen at Celtic Park. Photograph: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire
Celtic 3 Aberdeen 0
Celtic stretched their lead at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership to eight points with an emphatic 3-0 home win over second-placed Aberdeen.
Right back Mikael Lustig’s deflected shot in the 40th minute was the highlight of a surprisingly tepid first half.
The Hoops stepped up the pace after the break and in the 68th minute former Dons winger Jonny Hayes notched his first Celtic goal since joining in the summer, with French midfielder Oliver Ntcham wrapping up the points with a third.
It was a dominant second-half display by Brendan Rodgers’s side, who have a trip to Dundee and a visit from Old Firm rivals Rangers before the winter break.
Republic of Ireland international Hayes and Ntcham were two of the three changes made by Rodgers with striker Moussa Dembele also coming in.
The start to the top-of-the-table clash was tentative.
The first real chance came in the 23rd minute when Hoops defender Dedryck Boyata was robbed by former Celtic winger Gary Mackay-Steven, but he dragged his shot wide.
Seconds later, in a swift Celtic break, midfielder Stuart Armstrong played in Scott Sinclair, but with only Joe Lewis to beat he drove the ball against the keeper’s legs and the Aberdeen defence eventually cleared their lines.
A brief spell of Dons pressure ensued – Parkhead goalkeeper Craig Gordon beat away a Stewart shot on the angle – but with five minutes of the first half remaining it was the hosts who took the lead.
Armstrong drove forward at the edge of the Aberdeen penalty area and passed to Hayes who helped it back to Lustig and his shot from 25 yards came off Ball’s back and wrong-footed Lewis to end up in the net.
The champions then had chances to double their lead.
Sinclair was crowded out moments later after racing into the Aberdeen penalty area and Dembele and Ntcham both came close with drives early in the second half as Celtic imposed themselves on the men from the Granite City, who were gradually being drained of hope.
Kieran Tierney shot weakly straight at Lewis from eight yards after combining with Sinclair, who then set up Dembele, who fired over the bar.
The Pittodrie side offered little in return.
Midfielder Kenny McLean had an effort from distance deflected past for a corner which came to nothing before Hayes grabbed his goal.
Sinclair made his way down the left and, when his cross came into the box, Reynolds headed against Arnason with the ball falling into the path of Hayes to sweep into the net from close range.
Ntcham added a third in the 76th minute when he pounced on to a short pass-back by McLean to round Lewis and slot into an empty net to secure a deserved win.