Scoring in front of 60,000 spectators in a match viewed by millions around the world was exactly what Moussa Dembele had in mind when he joined Celtic this summer. But even the young striker could not have envisioned such a fairytale start to his Old Firm career as he enjoyed yesterday. Filing in for the injured Leigh Griffiths, Dembele became the first player to score a hat-trick in an Old Firm league game in 50 years as Celtic hammered Rangers by five goals to one.
The manner in which he completed his already famous treble belied his youth. Showing the kind of poise in front of goal associated with Celtic legend Stevie Chalmers, the last man to take home the match ball from this illustrious fixture, Dembele put Rangers to the sword by netting a perfect hat-trick (one header and a pair of ice-cool finishes with both feet) along with an assist for Scott Sinclair to net Celtic’s third.
After Stuart Armstrong rounded off the victory, Dembele took in the adulation of the home support as the last victorious player to leave the field, ball tucked under his arm as he went up the tunnel. The opportunity to delight such a large fanbase was one of the reasons the Frenchman, linked with several big clubs in the past two years, decided to make the switch to Glasgow’s East End.
“It was the perfect day,” said Dembele, “to beat Rangers at home, to get the points and to get my first hat-trick. It was something unbelievable and I will remember it all my life. There haven’t been many [hat-tricks] in this game and for me to get one for the first time it’s like a dream.
“It was something special to play in an Old Firm game and I am really happy the way it worked out. It wasn’t an easy game. We scored a lot of goals but it wasn’t as easy game. They are a good team but we played really well and that is how we won the game.
“When I came here I was expecting things I had never seen before. That was the point [in choosing Celtic]. When you come to a big club like Celtic you expect big games. That is what we produced today and are looking again on Tuesday.”
“Tuesday” refers to the small matter of Barcelona in the opening game of Celtic’s Champions League group stage campaign. Having played their three closest challengers from last season and the perceived main rivals for the current league campaign, Celtic have endured a tough beginning, but nothing will prepare them for the midweek trip to the Nou Camp.
At the very least they’ll have a striker with soaring confidence to lead the line. While Dembele wouldn’t tempt fate by assuming his selection, with Griffiths ruled out he seems almost certain to play.
“We are capable of going to Barcelona and getting a result. We are going there to give everything to come away with something,” added Dembele. “When you start any game of football, even if it is against the best team in the world, you have to show that you belong and give everything to get a result.”