It is fitting that, ultimately, goals scored accounts for Celtic retaining the Premiership top spot they regained with their net-bulging bonanza against Ross County, an encounter that left the club’s left-back Boli Bolingoli reflecting, entirely reasonably, that “we should have scored ten”.
The flailing by Neil Lennon’s side was a reminder that their armoury will make them difficult to usurp. And, according to Bolingoli, it reminded the players, following the slips that brought defeat at Livingston and a draw away to Hibernian in their league games prior to the international break, that “we are Celtic”. It was a timely reminder, too, with Lazio in the east end of Glasgow on Thursday for a pivotal Europa League encounter.
Hearts may have done the eight-times champions a favour with their draw at home to Steven Gerrard’s men that thwarted the Ibrox side’s hope of restoring a two-point advantage, but Celtic may have played a part in that outcome simply as a result of the gauntlet they laid down with their 6-0 slamming of the Highland club. Not that Rangers have got into their heads, according to Bolingoli.
“We are just looking at our games,” he said. “We lost the last game and that was a pity, but we just do our job. We want to go back and be top of the league again.
“What Rangers are doing is good, they are doing well. Good for them. But we will just stay focused on our games until the end of the season. Only then we will see who is going to be the champions.”
In Celtic’s Saturday chance-athon – Ross Laidlaw made eight fines saves, there were two goal-line clearances and Callum McGregor drove a shot at the post with the goal at his mercy – Odsonne Edouard was imperious. Fresh from taking his tally to nine goals in four games for the French under-21s, the 21-year-old displayed the full array of his talents that left the visitors bedraggled and befuddled.
“A beautiful mover of the ball” was how Lennon described his prized asset and double-hitter on a day that brought a couple for Mohamed Elyounoussi and strikes from James Forrest and McGregor. Five of these came in a second-half blitz no more ferocious than a first half wherein only one opportunity was taken.
Edouard has the sleekness, ability, awareness and power not just to be a destroyer but a creator too. He knitted together some breathless but deft forward play in which even full-back Jeremie Frimpong – on his Premiership debut – and Bolingoli became attacking weapons.
“It was just the speed of them, they had players coming everywhere,” County goalkeeper Laidlaw said of the brutal experience for his side. “Their wee right-back was brilliant, and they just absolutely killed us in behind in the second half.”
For all that Alfredo Morelos may have outscored him, Edouard is a player operating at a level beyond all others in Scotland. When he sparks his team, the effects are blinding, especially at Celtic Park where the title holders have now bagged 19 goals in only four games. A player with boundless potential, it is difficult to see him at Celtic next season. Bolingoli hopes he still is, but recognises that his ultimate destination is the highest echelons of the game. The Belgian was asked if he could see Edouard achieve the status of Bolingoli’s cousin Romelu Lukaku. He didn’t hesitate to affirm.
“For sure he can go to the level of Romelu. Odsonne is still young and is still progressing but in time, for me, he can become a big striker in the football world,” said the full-back whose own form upturn has ensured new signing Greg Taylor hasn’t had a minute of football since his move from Kilmarnock on deadline day. “The boy has qualities and we have so many qualities in the team to help him.”
These qualities will be tested to the full by Lazio. Bolingoli sees no problem in switching between such contrasting challenges. “It’s not difficult because we are motivated,” he added. “We were motivated against Ross County and the Europa League gives us more motivation still. Because of that I think we can play even better.”