Bayo keeps Celtic on top, Gerrard salutes 'magic' Barisic

Vakoun Bayo strikes twice on his first start as Scottish champions Celtic beat Hearts 3-1, on Sunday. — Courtesy photo

GLASGOW — Vakoun Bayo struck twice on his first start as Scottish champions Celtic beat Hearts 3-1 on Sunday, while Rangers manager Steven Gerrard praised Borna Barisic for the "moment of magic" that secured a 1-0 win at St. Mirren.

Ivory Coast striker Bayo had to wait seven months for his full debut, but he made up for lost time to keep Celtic top on goal difference ahead of Rangers.

Bayo has returned to fitness following the hamstring problems which had restricted him to three substitute appearances since arriving from Slovakian side Dunajska Streda in January.

The 22-year-old showed his predatory instincts to get the final touch to crosses from James Forrest and Kristoffer Ajer.

Callum McGregor fired a long-range strike in between as Celtic made it 15 goals from their opening three league matches.

Fraser Forster also came into the Celtic side after rejoining the club on loan from Southampton and the goalkeeper saved Conor Washington's 81st-minute penalty, only for the Northern Ireland international to net the rebound.

Both Celtic and Rangers have made perfect starts to the title race, with three victories each to set the stage for the first Old Firm derby of the season at Ibrox next weekend.

"Once he found his feet in the game he was superb and should have had a hat-trick," Celtic manager Neil Lennon said.

"He can be absolutely delighted and we all are with him as well.

"I love the second goal. It's a real striker's goal, getting across the defender. It's an absolutely wonderful finish.

"He had a real bad hamstring injury and that kept him out from March onwards. Then he had a decent pre-season and the hamstring recurred. So he has had to be patient with the injury and his rehabilitation."

At St. Mirren, Barisic's 25-yard free-kick settled a bruising clash in Rangers' favor in the 59th minute.

The Croatian's goal extended his side's undefeated start to the season.

Former Liverpool captain Gerrard was delighted with Barisic's contribution as his side kept the pressure on Celtic.

"It's a moment of magic. I always felt that it would take a moment of brilliance from one of the front men or wide men, or a really well-executed free-kick," Gerrard said.

"Thankfully Borna stepped up and he deserves all the credit that he gets. I've seen him do that many times on the training pitch but it's alright doing that when nobody's there.

"You've got to do it in big moments so fair play to him.

"He'd be the first to admit he's played well at times but underperformed at other times. But he got his opportunity today and took it with both hands.

"Not just with his free-kick. I thought his all-round game was strong." — AFP