Moussa Dembele: Celtic striker not assured of start despite Old Firm hat-trick

Celtic striker Moussa Dembele celebrates his hat-trick
Moussa Dembele says he will remember his hat-trick for the rest of his life

Celtic striker Moussa Dembele's hat-trick against Rangers - his first as a professional - might not be enough to ensure a regular starting place.

The Frenchman, 20, started the 5-1 Old Firm derby win because of an injury to Scotland striker Leigh Griffiths.

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers said he was "outstanding", but added: "I have to make the team work and sometimes he will play with Leigh Griffiths.

"Sometimes he won't, but I think you've seen today the spirit in the team."

Northern Irishman Rodgers pointed out that four of Celtic's goals were scored by players who have not been regular starters since he succeeded Ronny Deila as boss - midfielder Stuart Armstrong and Dembele.

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Premiership highlights: Celtic 5-1 Rangers

The striker, a signing from Fulham this summer, is likely to start against Barcelona in the Champions League on Tuesday (19:45 BST kick-off) in Griffiths' continued absence.

"He was up against Philippe Senderos, who's an experienced player - but you see his physicality in the game, his heading ability, his running ability and a wonderful touch and finish," Rodgers added.

Armstrong aided Celtic power

Brendan Rodgers
Brendan Rodgers described his first experience of an Old Firm derby as "incredible"

Rodgers thought that bringing Armstrong on for Australia midfielder Tom Rogic early in the second half had thwarted a Rangers' comeback after Joe Garner had reduced the arrears to 2-1.

"I was disappointed that we conceded a goal before half-time," the manager told BBC Scotland.

"You expect them to come out and try to force the game in the first 10 minutes of the second half and there was too much area opening up, especially in the central areas - so we made the change.

"Tom's had a lot of travel in the international break. We said to Stu that this was a game he could come into and look to press and work and he's done that very well and got his goal. He contributed to a great team performance."

It was Rodgers' first taste of an Old Firm derby as manager and he described it as "incredible" and ideal preparation for the Champions League trip to Spain to face La Liga giants Barca.

"That is a game that we can go and enjoy now," he said. "It was important to win today and keep the momentum going.

"We have got to be relentless in our quest to win the title again and that was a good marker for us.

"The atmosphere today was truly special. When the noise is like that, it really is a team that has a 12th man."

Rangers, who were then a Championship side, had beaten Celtic on penalties in last season's Scottish Cup semi-finals.

"They had a real disappointment at Hampden only a few months back, so hopefully they have shown the improvements they have made," said Rodgers.

"It is great for the supporters. It is always about bragging rights for the supporters and I think they will be proud of their team today."

Dembele delight

Striker Dembele said his treble is a moment he will remember "for my whole life".

"It feels great," he said. "To score a hat-trick, my first in professional football, is something unbelievable.

"Everyone has welcomed me since I came to the club and the fans were unbelievable today.

"The atmosphere is something I have never seen. I don't think I will see something like this in my career."

The match had been preceded by verbals between Scott Brown and Rangers midfielder Joey Barton, who had said the Celtic captain was "nowhere near the level of player I am".

Asked by Sky Sports about the much-anticipated midfield battle, Brown said it was "easy".

"There was no battling whatsoever," he added. "It was pretty much men versus boys at the end of the day."

Rangers midfielder Joey Barton and Celtic's Scott Brown
Joey Barton was "easy" to play against, according to Scott Brown

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