Celtic 9 Aberdeen 0
Celtic leapfrogged Rangers by two points at the top of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League with a humiliation of Aberdeen at Parkhead.
In a quite astonishing match, Dons skipper Paul Hartley and Hoops defender Thomas Rogne were sent packing by referee Alan Muir as the home side romped to a 4-0 interval lead with doubles from Gary Hooper and Anthony Stokes, the Republic of Ireland striker netting two penalties.
Both Celtic strikers completed their hat-tricks after the break as a strike from Joe Ledley, an own goal by Pittodrie substitute Josh Magennis and a late penalty from Celtic substitute Paddy McCourt made the scoreline an embarrassment for the visitors.
The Hoops fans, several hundred of whom had staged a protest outside Hampden earlier in the day protesting against the Scottish Football Association and refereeing standards, watched the home side take control against a nervy Dons side.
However, early chances failed to materialise and when Stokes drove over in the 10th minute from the edge of the box, it was the Celtic’s first real effort on goal.
His right-footed shot from a similar position eight minutes later, which also went high, was the next.
Midway through the half the Dons showed a threat for the first time in a break and Celtic keeper Fraser Forster had to save point-blank from Chris Maguire and from the resultant corner, Hoops wide-man Niall McGinn had to clear Scott Vernon’s header off the line.
Celtic responded well and moments later Pittodrie stopper Zander Diamond had to clear Maloney’s cross-cum-shot off the line.
Then, McGinn blasted over after Shaun Maloney did well to get in to the Aberdeen box again before cutting the ball back from the byline.
However, in the 25th minute Hartley used his hands to save a goalbound shot from Sung-Yong Ki for which the former Celtic midfielder was handed a straight red by referee Muir, before Stokes slotted in the penalty.
That opened the floodgates.
Three minutes later Hooper, back in the side after recovering from a metatarsal injury, shrugged off the attention of Diamond after latching on to a Stokes pass to knock the ball past Jamie Langfield from 16 yards.
In the 33rd minute Hooper grabbed a second after again proving too strong for Diamond at the front post, the former Scunthorpe striker blasting in from close range after taking a McGinn pass.
There was more controversy in the 40th minute Rogne was sent off for wrestling Maguire to the ground at the edge of the box, referee Muir deeming it a ’last man’ situation and Forster made a great save from the Dons’ striker’s free-kick.
The first-half drama was not over.
Seconds from the break Langfield felled Maloney in the box for another penalty which again Stokes converted.
The destination of the points was all but settled and it was a matter of seeing how many the home side could score.
Lennon re-jigged his side at the interval bringing in stopper Jos Hooiveld for McGinn but the game had died.
The Parkhead men pushed for more goals but without the zeal of the first half although in the 57th minute Hooper volleyed wide from 14 yards after Maloney and Cha Du-Ri had combined down the right.
Then, in the 61st minute, Dons substitute Magennis, on four minutes earlier for Vernon, headed Joe Ledley’s cross past his own keeper Langfield to make it five and moments later Hooper completed his hat-trick when he headed in a Stokes cross.
In the 71st minute it was Ledley who appeared to make it seven with a long-range drive which Stokes might have got a touch to although the Irishman was the clear finisher a minute later when he ran clean through the bedraggled Aberdeen rearguard to confidently knock past Langfield.
In the 84th minute Ryan Jack brought down Maloney and McCourt, on for Hooper, drove in the spot-kick and only good fortune prevented double figures on a dark day for the Pittodrie men.