Scottish champions Celtic continued their relentless defence of the league title with a crushing derby day victory over Old Firm foes Rangers on Saturday afternoon at Parkhead, the hosts running out 4-0 winners thanks to an electric first-half display.
Much like the 3-0 triumph back in February, the Hoops raced into a three-goal lead before the interval to all but confirm the points, with the lively Liel Abada netting a devastating double either side of a delightful dink from the ever-impressive Jota.
With the home side firmly in control after the break, substitute David Turnbull then added further gloss to the scoreline with a late strike to heap more misery on Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men, stretching the gap at the top of the table to five points as a result.
While the aforementioned goalscorers – particularly Abada – will no doubt grab the headlines following that statement showing, one man who was perhaps the club’s true hero on the day was Matt O’Riley, with the 21-year-old once again looking at ease in such a pressurised environment.
It is easy to forget that a matter of months ago that the January arrival was plying his trade in League One at MK Dons, with the Denmark U21 international having made such a smooth transition to life in the Scottish Premiership.
His impact has been to such an extent that he has even been courting attention from some of Europe’s elite clubs in recent times, with the player himself admitting that he has been the subject of vast interest.
Unperturbed by that potential distraction, the one-time Fulham youth product was at his sparkling best this afternoon, notably laying on two assists in that brutal first-half dismantling, taking his total tally to five assists in just six league games so far this term.
The elegant, graceful midfielder caught the eye early on with his remarkable willingness to win back possession in the final third – having previously been dubbed a “pressing machine” by former boss Russell Martin – before truly showcasing his quality on the ball as the Hoops ran riot.
After his deflected pullback had helped set up the hosts’ opener, O’Riley then played in teammate Jota with a stunning threaded pass that split the Gers defence in two, before going on to provide the telling touch just minutes later after teeing up Abada for his second of the game.
The London-born menace could have potentially had a hat-trick of assists had early substitute Giorgos Giakoumakis not squandered a glorious headed chance following a delightful, teasing delivery from the midfielder.
Such an impactful 72-minute display – in which the £2.07m-rated ace had 51 touches and provided four key passes – unsurprisingly saw the playmaker record a hugely impressive match rating of 7.9, as per SofaScore, with that the second-highest rating among the Celtic squad.
Equally, such a performance will also rubberstamp just how important he has become to Postecolgou’s side in such a short space of time, with his reported £20m valuation only set to keep rising higher.