A Reo Hatate inspired Celtic romped to a comfortable 4-0 victory against Aberdeen at Celtic Park on Saturday afternoon, stretching the Hoops winning run over the Dons to 6 games at all venues and 7 games at home.
The afternoon got off to the perfect start with captain Callum McGregor opening the scoring inside 3 minutes with a beautifully taken half-volley from the edge of the Aberdeen penalty area.
McGregor’s goal visibly shook the visitors and the game was effectively over as a contest before the quarter-of-an-hour mark as Reo Hatate doubled Celtic’s advantage and welcomed us all to another edition of ‘The Hatate Show’.
The Japanese midfielder collected a pass from Taylor just outside the Aberdeen penalty area, dropped his shoulder a couple of times and with mesmerising fleet-footedness, created the space to shoot into the bottom right corner.
Celtic did not relent for the remainder of the half and could easily have gone in 3 or 4 up at the break.
Hatate went close on 26 minutes, again creating space for a shot with his excellent body movement, but failed to strike the ball cleanly with his left foot; Maeda caused countless problems flashing low crosses into the 6-yard box that Jota and Oh came close to capitalising on; and O’Riley also stung the palms of Gorter in the Aberdeen goal before the interval.
There was also time before the break for Hatate to display his vision and passing prowess once again, picking out Jota in the box with an inch-perfect through pass. That the Portuguese had strayed offside takes nothing away from the execution of the pass from Hatate.
GAME MANAGEMENT AT ITS FINEST
Celtic continued to dominate proceedings after the break but, with the game won and a League Cup final on the horizon, there was an understandable lull in intensity in the opening 15-20 minutes of the second half.
A raft of changes on the hour saw Abada, Iwata, and Hakšabanović enter the fray; all hungry and with something to prove. Kyogo was also given a run out for the final 20 minutes to prove his fitness ahead of the Cup final.
The final act of this most recent instalment in the Hatate Show came with 15 minutes left to play as the midfielder capped off a Man of the Match performance with a wonderful second goal.
Retaining possession under pressure – and a shirt-pull from Shinnie – Hatate showed quick feet once again before nutmegging Ramadani and finding McGregor with a pass. Not content to sit back and bask in the glow of his latest piece of skill, Hatate moved in towards goal, picking up on a loose ball at the edge of the area and slamming past Gorter to make it 3-0.
Hakšabanović, who moved into a more central position after the late introduction of James Forrest, began to have a big influence over the closing stages, twice going close himself before setting up fellow sub Abada to sweep in the fourth and complete the scoring.
With another comfortable and confident victory in the bag, attention now turns to next Sunday’s League Cup final and the chance to lift the first silverware of the season.