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Rodgers: title triumph at Hearts would be so fitting

 

By Ronnie Esplin

Brendan Rodgers believes a Celtic title win against Hearts tomorrow would bookend a "remarkable" first Ladbrokes Premiership season, which began with a 2-1 win at Tynecastle.

New signing Scott Sinclair stepped off the bench to score a late debut winner against the Jambos in Gorgie on August 7 in Ulsterman Rodgers' first league game as Hoops boss.

The Parkhead club would have been crowned champions for the sixth straight season last night if second-placed Aberdeen lost to Dundee at Dens Park, but the Dons romped to a 7-0 victory.

However, Rodgers is preparing to return to Edinburgh, where it all began for him, to take the final step to the title.

The Carnlough man said: "The first game of the season was at Hearts and, if I look back at the season we have had, it has been remarkable. It is a great mark of how the team has progressed.

"I look back to that game and we won it. It was tough, we played well in patches but it was only really the beginnings of the team working together.

"To go back there this early with the chance to win it, it really shows the level and how much the players have developed.

"But we don't underestimate Hearts. We know it will be a tough game as they always are there.

"We will go there with a real mentality to get the result."

On the cusp of winning the title and with the domestic treble still up for grabs, Rodgers praised the efforts of his players this season.

He said: "I have to give them massive credit. We still have the season to finish and we want to finish strong, but I have to look at how concentrated they have been every day.

"Everything I have asked them to do they have done, and any issues that we have had we have been able to reflect on it, become better and improve.

"It has been a real joy to work with them and they have got their rewards for their hard work and consistency."

The Hoops' champagne is on ice after first-half goals from defender Andrew Considine (2), striker Adam Rooney and midfielder Kenny McLean had the points on their way to Pittodrie by the interval last night.

Skipper Ryan Jack drove in number five in the 51st minute and Niall McGinn got the Dons' sixth before Considine completed his hat-trick.

Celtic are still 22 points ahead of the Granite City men, though Derek McInnes' side moved 11 points ahead of chasing Rangers, whose new manager Pedro Caixinha sat watching from the stand.

Considine was clinical in the 16th minute when the Dons forced their fifth corner, rising highest in a packed six-yard box to knock Johnny Hayes' cross in with what looked like his shoulder.

In the 25th minute, Rooney doubled the lead when right-back Shay Logan floated in a cross to the near post, guiding a header from eight yards past Scott Bain.

It quickly got worse. When Graeme Shinnie set up McLean in the 34th minute, the midfielder took the ball onto his right foot and fired in an angled drive.

And when Considine got on the end of a Shinnie cross at the back post to head in his second, the game was effectively over.

Dundee brought on Henrik Ojamaa and Craig Wighton for the start of the second half at the expense of Tom Hateley and Nick Ross. However, Aberdeen's fifth goal was only minutes away.

The ever-busy Hayes went past Dundee defender Cameron Kerr and into the box with impressive ease and simply squared for Jack to drive the ball in off the post.

The Dons players, bursting with confidence, began shooting from distance as demoralised Dundee had no answers.

Northern Ireland ace McGinn was credited with the sixth, turning in a cross from substitute Ryan Christie, although Kevin Gomis appeared to get the final touch.

And to complete a memorable night, Considine earned himself the match ball just hours before his 30th birthday when he forced it over the line from a searching 83rd-minute Christie free-kick.

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