Celtic set a marker in their pursuit of a 10th successive Scottish Premiership title as Odsonne Edouard’s hat-trick helped them trounce Hamilton 5-1 at Parkhead in their opening game of the season.
Edouard was the top goalscorer in last season’s Scottish Premiership before it was curtailed in March 2020, and he opened his account after just 20 minutes with a simple finish.
Jeremie Frimpong extended Celtic’s lead (31) before Christopher Jullien deflected Scott Martin’s shot into his own net to give Hamilton hope (34).
But Neil Lennon’s side dusted themselves down and sped away from their opponents with a quickfire double nine minutes into the restart as Edouard completed his hat-trick with two one-touch finishes (49, 54). There was still time for substitute Patryk Klimala to add a fifth in the final minute of normal time.
Celtic’s win means it is 13 in a row over Hamilton and also a 13th successive victory on the opening day of a Scottish Premiership season as the title favourites moved top and the team tipped for relegation prop up the division in matchweek one.
Celtic: Bain (6), Frimpong (7), Jullien (7), Ajer (7), Taylor (8), Brown (7), Christie (7), McGregor (7), Forrest (7), Edouard (9), Elyounoussi (7).
Subs: Klimala (7), Ntcham (6), Elhamed (n/a), Dembele (n/a).
Hamilton: Fulton (8), Odofin (7), Hamilton (5), Want (5), McMann (6), Lewis Smith (5), Martin (6), Callachan (5), Hughes (5), Moyo (5), Winter (5).
Subs: McKenna (5), Ogboe (6), Trafford (5).
Man of the match: Odsonne Edouard.
How Celtic began quest for 10 in a row
This is Academical’s seventh successive season in the top flight and they are seldom anything other than relegation favourites, but time and time again they have come up with big results, including almost taking a point here last season as well as beating Rangers at Ibrox back in March.
They made an encouraging start on Sunday as Andy Winter had forced Scott Bain into tipping over his long-range shot, David Moyo met Hakeem Odoffin’s fine cross but he could only steer his header wide.
There was no Celtic debut yet for Vasilis Barkas, with the Greek goalkeeper signed this week from AEK Athens taking his place on the Celtic bench.
Scott Bain started and it was a pretty familiar line-up from the champions with Greg Taylor shaking off the knock from last weekend’s friendly. Mohamed Elyounoussi started on the left-hand side of midfield while Odsonne Edouard led the line.
There were Hamilton debuts for full-back Hakeem Odoffin and midfielder Ross Callachan while David Moyo started up front today alongside teenager Andy Winter, who made his first league start. It was starting line-up with an average age of just 22 years.
The miss proved costly as after 20 minutes, Celtic took the lead when good work from Frimpong allowed Edouard to follow his pass into the box and last season’s top goalscorer got up and running this term with a simple tap in from Greg Taylor’s cross.
Lennon’s side were in a commanding position 11 minutes later when Callum McGregor found Taylor in space down the left, and the full-back produced a carbon copy of a cross from Frimpong to guide his shot home from close range.
But Hamilton rallied and found a route back into the contest when Martin latched onto a loose ball on the edge of the area to slash a wayward shot towards goal that deflected first off McGregor and then tellingly off Jullien to wrong-foot Bain.
The goal would have changed Lennon’s half-time team talk, with Celtic emerging determined to cut out the signs of sloppiness at the back – and the nine-time Scottish champions then showed just why they will take some catching once more this season.
James Forrest had been quiet by his standards during the opening 45 minutes, but he burst into life four minutes into the restart with a fine cross that was converted by expertly converted by Edouard.
Five minutes later, the Frenchman completed his second hat-trick for Celtic as he was on hand to steer his rebound into the roof of the net after Ryan Fulton had initially saved from Ryan Christie.
Forrest very nearly extended the hosts’ lead when his curling shot was tipped around the post by the overworked Fulton but Celtic duly got their fifth in the 90th minute as Klimala raced onto Jullien’s pass to fire low into the net as Celtic began their quest for title No 10 in style.
What the managers said
Celtic boss Neil Lennon: “I’m delighted, it’s a fantastic start to the season. We were a little bit passive for my liking in the first half but then we showed what we were about with pace, power and goals.
“People are finding their feet a little bit but in the second half, I thought we were really strong. I woke them up a little bit as we were taking too many touches and we weren’t defending well but then they gave me everything I asked for.”
Hamilton boss Brian Rice: “It’s very difficult coming here to play against the champions, when you see the quality of the substitutes they can bring on. If I was Celtic, I’d be disappointed if you can’t beat Hamilton on the opening day of the season.
“I thought we spotted a weakness in their defence and we created a couple of chances. I think all their goals came from wide areas, so there’s a bit of naivety from the young lads but we’ll learn from this. Celtic are on a very different level to us so it will be difficult to judge me on games against them.”
Analysis: Celtic with so much attacking variety
Sky Sports’ Andy Walker: “I thought Celtic were very impressive and I like their attitude right from the word ‘go’. This is no embarrassment for Hamilton Accies and if they’re going to offer that kind of threat more often than not, I think they’ll pick up enough points to be OK.
“But Celtic were just on a different level, and the variety they had from middle to front was far too much for the opposition.”
Former Celtic manager Martin O’Neill: “The game was effectively over within minutes of the second half. It was a game Celtic were expected to win and they won comfortably. The mistakes can be ironed out and going forward I thought they were a dream.
“There was something endearingly naive about Hamilton and they will have their own struggles during the season, but Celtic have done what they needed to do.”
Taylor: It’s a great way to start
Celtic full-back Greg Taylor: “It’s a great win and it’s great to start with a few goals for the boys.
“We started the game really well and got the first two goals relatively early but then lost a scrappy goal but the boys were out of the traps after half-time.
“We’d gone a bit slow and wasn’t moving the ball quick enough but then we got the goals we needed early in the second half. Odsonne is a special player and we’re very lucky to have him.”
Man of the match – Odsonne Edouard
Since August 2019, Edouard has been involved in 32 Scottish Premiership goals (25 goals, seven assists) for Celtic – more than Hamilton have scored (31).
On Sunday, he was clinical from close range as he once more showed why he is the favourite for this season’s golden boot.
Former Celtic striker John Hartson told Sky Sports: “He’s come away with the match ball and his second goal was outstanding.”
Lennon added: “He’s a special talent and he’s started the season brilliantly. He’s got so much to his game, but what’s pleased me over the last 15 months are the number of goals he’s scoring, and the types of goals.”
Celtic travel to face Kilmarnock next Sunday live on Sky Sports Football (kick-off is at 4.30pm). Hamilton host Ross County at 3pm on Saturday.