In a league campaign when their objective is clear and obvious, a statement of intent is perhaps superfluous from Celtic’s perspective.
But the Scottish champions delivered one nonetheless as they opened their quest for the fabled ten-in-a-row with a vibrant performance and comprehensive victory over Hamilton Accies.
A predatory hat-trick by Scotland’s reigning Player of the Year Odsonne Edouard, back in the groove on day one, was garnished by goals from eye-catching teenager Jeremie Frimpong and substitute Patryk Klimala as Celtic wasted no time in assuming their accustomed position at the top of the Premiership.
The final scoreline would feel a little harsh from Hamilton’s viewpoint, given the nature of their own display which was both enterprising and robustly competitive.
But Celtic’s superior quality, as it has so relentlessly in domestic competition in recent years, held sway yet again.
The atmosphere was unavoidably surreal and subdued, despite Celtic’s best efforts to bring a sense of occasion to their ninth consecutive title flag-unfurling seasonal home opener.
But if the pre-match fireworks appeared out of place, there was much to admire about the pace and intensity of the football which followed.
Credit was due to both sides for that, even if Celtic were unsurprisingly dominant in terms of possession and ultimately more than convincing winners. Accies, who used a 4-4-2 formation, were prepared to adopt an adventurous approach whenever possible and contributed significantly to an absorbing contest.
After surviving a couple of early scares, when their defending at corners left much to be desired as Christopher Jullien and Kristoffer Ajer both came close for Celtic, the visitors steadied themselves and began to ask questions at the other end.
After Jullien conceded possession cheaply, Andy Winter’s fine curling shot from the edge of the penalty area forced Scott Bain into a good save high to his left. It was a confidence-boosting early touch for the Celtic goalkeeper, retaining his place with new £4.5 million signing Vasilis Barkas having to settle for a place on the bench.
Accies came close again when Hakeem Odoffin stretched the Celtic defence with a surging run down the right, his cross finding David Moyo whose flashing header went wide of Bain’s right-hand post.
Celtic responded by stepping up the tempo with Accies goalkeeper Ryan Fulton doing well to keep out a shot by James Forrest low to his right, before looking on in relief as Jullien’s shot from a Ryan Christie corner thumped off his left-hand post.
As Brian Rice’s men tried to get themselves back on the front foot, they were caught out by a magnificent counter-attacking move by Celtic as the hosts took a 20th-minute lead. The rapid break, involving Frimpong and Mohamed Elyounoussi, culminated with a low cross from the left by Greg Taylor which was touched home from close range by Edouard.
Accies were undaunted and threatened again two minutes later, forcing a corner from which Shaun Want headed just over the bar.
Celtic seemed to take an iron grip of the contest when they doubled their lead in the 31st minute. Again, Taylor was the provider with a low cross from the left which caught the visitors’ defence flat-footed once more. This time it was Frimpong who took advantage, unmarked at the back post to stab the ball home.
It was a goal which might easily have knocked the stuffing out of Hamilton but they dragged themselves back into contention when they pulled a goal back three minutes later.
There was an element of good fortune to Scott Martin’s strike, which deflected off both Jullien and Callum McGregor before wrong-footing Bain and nestling in the corner of the net, but Accies could claim to have earned their luck. But that was where it ran out as Celtic moved through the gears at the start of the second half to eliminate any hint of a comeback by the underdogs.
Four minutes after the break, Forrest thrust his way down the right and his cutback was guided beyond Fulton’s right hand by a sweet right-foot finish by Edouard.
Accies barely had time to react before they found themselves 4-1 down as Edouard completed his second hat-trick in a Celtic shirt, this time poking a left-foot shot beyond Fulton who had parried an effort by Ryan Christie.
The French striker’s value to Celtic is obvious and it is no surprise manager Neil Lennon is bracing himself for interest in his club’s prize asset before the extended transfer window closes in October.
Edouard was replaced by Klimala in the closing stages and the Polish striker sealed a satisfying afternoon for Celtic when he scored his first competitive goal for the club, latching on to Jullien’s through ball and sliding a precise right-foot finish beyond Fulton in the 90th minute.
Klimala, recruited for £3.5 million in January, may yet prove an able back-up for Edouard. But the evidence of Sunday afternoon at Celtic Park is that their top scorer looks irreplaceable.
A message from the Editor:
Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.
With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.
Subscribe to scotsman.com and enjoy unlimited access to Scottish news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit https://www.scotsman.com/subscriptions now to sign up.
Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.