GLASGOW: James Forrest scored four goals as champions Celtic thrashed 10-man St Johnstone 6-0 on Sunday to record their first away win in the Scottish Premiership this season.
By their own recent standards Celtic had made a faltering start to the campaign, and the mood of uncertainty surrounding the Hoops has not been helped by reports that coach Brendan Rodgers is a target for English club Aston Villa.
The Birmingham club, who play in the second-tier Championship, are looking for a new boss after firing Steve Bruce, with former Liverpool coach Rodgers believed to be top of a list that also features Arsenal great Thierry Henry.
But away from the off-field speculation, Celtic fans had a thumping win to enjoy which, combined with arch Glasgow rivals Rangers’ 3-1 victory at home to Hearts, allowed them to move to within three points of the leaders.
Forrest had not scored since the Champions League qualifiers in July and was sent off in Thursday’s 3-1 Europa League loss away to Salzburg.
But it was a different story on Sunday as he opened the scoring in the 15th minute.
His hat-trick was completed seven minutes before the break and Forrest then added a fourth goal on the stroke of halftime for good measure.
Odsonne Édouard also scored in the first half, with Callum McGregor on target six minutes from time against a St Johnstone side who had Danny Swanson sent off shortly after the break.
Rangers, coached by Steven Gerrard – Rodgers’ captain at Liverpool – enjoyed a comfortable win over 10-man Hearts as the Jambos suffered their first defeat in 13 games.
Ryan Kent opened the scoring in the third minute before Alfredo Morelos and Scott Arfield increased Rangers’ lead.
Hearts’ Michael Smith was sent off in the 55th minute after receiving a second yellow card for a foul on Jon Flanagan.
Jimmy Dunne pulled a goal back for the visitors with a header but that was as a good as it got on the day for Hearts
Nevertheless, Hearts remain top of the table, two points clear of second-placed Edinburgh rivals Hibernian.