Reo Hatate inspired Celtic to a 4-0 victory over Aberdeen as the champions maintained their nine-point lead in the cinch Premiership.
The Japan midfielder showed a real desire to make a difference in the final third and he quickly added to Callum McGregor’s early opener before firing home in the second half after some outrageous skill to claim his second double in consecutive games.
Substitute Liel Abada got himself on the scoresheet to further boost Celtic’s confidence ahead of next Sunday’s Viaplay Cup final against Rangers.
Kyogo Furuhashi was kept on the bench for 71 minutes ahead of the Hampden tie after injuring his shoulder the previous weekend, and the forward showed no ill effects when he came on.
South Korea striker Oh Hyeon-gyu made his first start for Celtic and had a quiet introduction although he was involved in the build-up to the second goal.
Aaron Mooy was a surprise absentee for Celtic, who were also without David Turnbull but Matt O’Riley impressed alongside Hatate in the attacking midfield roles.
Celtic were ahead inside two minutes when McGregor pounced on Jonny Hayes’ headed clearance and fired a first-time shot from 16 yards which on-loan Ajax goalkeeper Jay Gorter could not keep out.
Jota threatened with a low cross and a drive before Hatate doubled the lead in the 16th minute.
The midfielder received the ball from Greg Taylor just outside the box and moved towards several opponents before dropping his shoulder and curling the ball into the bottom corner.
Celtic looked like they were going to add to their tally in the first half as they continued swarming forward.
Aberdeen survived balls across the face of goal from Daizen Maeda, O’Riley and Taylor and Gorter made two saves from Hatate.
Celtic were awarded a penalty when Maeda got in the way of Hayes’ attempted clearance but Jota was called offside by VAR from the preceding incident after having a shot saved by Gorter.
The goalkeeper then produced another great stop from O’Riley before the break.
Aberdeen caretaker manager Barry Robson brought on left-back Hayden Coulson for striker Bojan Miovski and moved Hayes forward for the start of the second half.
Maeda missed a decent chance but Aberdeen were looking far more compact than they had in the first half.
The visitors were also getting forward more often and Leighton Clarkson had a couple of wayward efforts while Joe Hart twice gifted possession to Hayes outside his box.
The former Celtic winger was off target from 45 yards on the first occasion before setting up Ylber Ramadani. The midfielder’s long-range effort was blocked by Carl Starfelt with Hart stranded and referee WIllie Collum waved away handball claims.
Hatate lifted the home fans in the 76th minute, first bamboozling one Dons player with a drag-back and then nutmegging another with a pass to McGregor. Hatate supported his captain’s forward run and fired into the corner of the net from 16 yards after the ball broke to him.
Substitute Sead Haksabanovic came close to a fourth after an excellent move before squaring for Abada to sweep the ball first time high into the net in the 89th minute.