Scottish Premiership: What did we learn from the weekend's games?

Could it go down as the weekend when Celtic took a major step towards a ninth Scottish title in a row? Or the one when Hearts eventually lost patience with manager Craig Levein?

Rangers remain out on their own in second despite losing the Old Firm derby to their impressive city rivals, while their Edinburgh counterparts find themselves occupying two of the bottom four spots.

What conclusions can we make from the 12 team performances after week four of the Premiership?

Celtic

Celtic up the ante once more

Every time Celtic's domestic dominance has appeared to be under threat since Rangers returned to the top flight, they have upped their game - and Neil Lennon's side did so again at Ibrox on Sunday.

Their Champions League capitulation at home to Cluj has been followed by convincing wins in both legs of their Europa League qualifier against AIK and then a thoroughly professional dousing of their city rivals' fire in the derby.

It allowed Lennon the opportunity to say it sent a message to pundits and bookmakers who had suggested their quest for another domestic treble and nine league titles in a row was facing a major challenge from Steven Gerrard's side.

Summer additions to the defence belied their doubters, captain Scott Brown responded to suggestions his influence was on we wane by bossing midfield, Odsonne Edouard proved not for the first time to be the bane of Rangers, while Lennon sent his own response to those who questioned his tactical prowess by outmanoeuvring the former England captain.

Celtic, now three points ahead at the top of the table, have again thrown down the gauntlet to city rivals who now know they still have much to do the narrow the Glasgow gap.

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Highlights: Rangers 0-2 Celtic
Rangers

Rangers made to think again

Just when Scottish football, and Rangers fans in particular, thought a first genuine title race in years was on the cards, Celtic turn up at Ibrox to quickly dampen the expectations.

The Light Blues' high hopes were understandable considering they had beaten their city rivals on their last two trips across the city and Gerrard has strengthened his squad in the summer.

But, having hit 30 goals in nine games at the start of the season, they have only found the net twice in the last four as the standard of opposition begins to ramp up.

Gerrard was willing to take part of the blame for the defeat by Celtic for his tactical decisions, with his cautious formation seemingly playing into his rivals' hands.

Whatever is the cause, the Achilles heel from last season of failing to turn possession into chances and goals has suddenly returned.

Starting Alfredo Morelos on the bench suggests Gerrard also has a dilemma of not being able to trust his top scorer against Celtic, whether it be for the Colombian's proven lack of discipline or failure to break his derby scoring duck.

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'There's question marks about Gerrard's selection' - Michael Stewart
Livingston

Livi turning to attack to maintain run

Livingston have now gone 107 days since their last defeat in a competitive football match, with six wins and three draws from their first nine games in all competitions.

Rather than the perceived wisdom of resolute, defensive fortitude, Gary Holt's side have in fact turned to overpowering their foes in attack and it has provided results.

In their first four league matches, Livingston have scored eight goals. When we extend that to all competitions, it balloons out to 20 goals in just nine games. Which suggests Holt's team are far more than just one-dimensional side.

Livingston celebrate against St Mirren
Livingston have now gone 107 days without defeat.
Aberdeen

Hedges and McGinn deliver what McInnes needs

When Aberdeen beat Chikhura Sachkhere 5-0 at the start of August then followed it up with another three goals against Hearts, Dons fans thought they were being promised swash-buckling football this season. Instead, they failed to score in four of their next five games and the one they did score in was an ugly extra-time win in the League Cup against Dundee.

But against Ross County they were back to getting the support's hopes up again. Niall McGinn and Ryan Hedges were the main instigators; linking up for two of Aberdeen's three goals.

Manager Derek McInnes has called for his team to offer more in the final third, and got what he wanted. "Our best players this season have been defenders," he said. "Ryan and Niall ganged up brilliantly today, supported Sam Cosgrove, and showed real quality. That's what we need from wide players - assists and goals."

Sam Cosgrove celebrates his penalty
Motherwell

Fir Parkers are spoilt for choice

Motherwell are now up and motoring in the Scottish Premiership and clinching their second win in a row, a 3-0 thumping of Hibernian demonstrated how many options Stephen Robinson has in his squad.

The hosts swept away a poor Hibs team but did so without the use of vice captain Richard Tait and versatile defender Charles Dunne, two pillars of this Motherwell team in the last few months.

Playing a front three with Christopher Long, James Scott and Sherwin Seedorf seemed to work well, but the impact of Devante Cole from the bench will give Robinson more food for thought.

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Highlights: Motherwell 3-0 Hibernian
kilmarnock

Kilmarnock take shape under Alessio

Solid defensive organisation was the platform for Kilmarnock's first Premiership victory under Angelo Alessio. New arrival Dario del Fabro looked very comfortable on his debut, while Niko Hamalainen was rock solid at left-back, although he does not offer the same attacking threat as Celtic-bound Greg Taylor.

Alan Power and Gary Dicker were back doing the dirty stuff they do best in midfield.

Dario del Fabro, on loan from Juventus, enjoyed a promising debut for Kilmarnock
Dario del Fabro, on loan from Juventus, enjoyed a promising debut for Kilmarnock
Hamilton

Smith a stand-out for battling Accies

Hamilton Academical still have not won at Tynecastle for 42 years, but they can rarely have come closer. Trailing at the break on Saturday with Hearts looking comfortable, Brian Rice's men roared back with a performance full of fighting spirit and panache.

They created a succession of chances and were unlucky not to take all three points. Central to all their good work was midfielder Lewis Smith, who bombs up and down the right flank and, at just 19, looks a star in the making.

If perennial strugglers Accies - currently seventh in the league - keep up this standard of performance, they should comfortably survive.

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Highlights: Heart of Midlothian 2-2 Hamilton Academical
label

County happy to have a break

One team that will be happy with the international break will be Ross County. Striker Lee Erwin's six-week layoff added him to an injury list that already includes Liam Fontaine, Ross Draper, Don Cowie, Lewis Spence, Brian Graham, Michael Gardyne and Nathan Baxter.

The signing of Ricky Foster on a one-year deal after his St Johnstone exit helped, but after the 3-0 defeat by Aberdeen, they have now conceded 10 goals in three games, including three to Championship side Partick Thistle in the League Cup.

Co-manager Steven Ferguson lamented their lack of luck. They hit the woodwork twice at Pittodrie, and also had a missed penalty from Billy Mckay, while Ferguson also felt key decisions did not go their way.

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'Where did he go?' - Aberdeen's Ryan Hedges dazzles County's Ricky Foster
Hibernian

Hibs huff and puff but blow cold

After being brushed aside by Motherwell in a bruising 3-0 defeat at Fir Park, Hibernian manager Paul Heckingbottom is demanding his side "toughen up" after a performance where he described his side as "looking pretty but soft".

It was not through lack of effort - Scott Allan, Vykintas Slivka and Stevie Mallan ran themselves ragged and made some fantastic driving dashes into the box. In fact, all XI looked busy but effectively huffed and puffed without producing anything that mattered - aside from goalkeeper Ofir Marciano limiting the damage to just three goals in the visitors' net.

"If you are poor in one-v-one situations, attacking and defending you're going to get beat. That's been our trend, our theme," Heckingbottom said, insisting his side will need to be faster, stronger and tactically more proficient to make any real dent in this season.

"We have to put right or we won't be as successful as we want to be."

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'Hibs are too soft and pretty'
St Mirren

St Mirren need a plan B

After some relatively impressive, defensive performances against Hibernian, Aberdeen and Rangers, Saturday's task for St Mirren was to provide a more attacking approach to the trip to Livingston. Jim Goodwin's side certainly got their goal - a superb long-range effort from Kyle Magennis in the 64th minute - but it was too little too late by then and the Paisley boss was left blaming a defensive and timid first half for his side's defeat.

Such tactics may work against the side in the top six, but Goodwin will know that safety from relegation will require goals against teams in the bottom six. It did not happen against Livingston, but the next two fixtures against Ross County and Hamilton may be where we see a different side to this St Mirren side.

St Mirren desperately need more goals.
Hearts

Time up for Levein?

The vociferous reaction that greeted Craig Levein and his Hearts players at the end of Saturday's 2-2 draw with Hamilton Academical spoke volumes about the current mood at Tynecastle.

Some fans have clearly had enough of Levein, whose team have now taken just three points from the last 33 available in the league - an alarming 11-game winless run stretching across campaigns.

Reaching the Scottish Cup final last season papered over the cracks of his struggles as head coach, but the stats are damning and there's nowhere to hide now. Will Ann Budge wield the axe and leave Levein to focus solely on his director of football role?

sns
St Johnstone

Slow start for sloppy Saints

Following two spirited comeback draws, St Johnstone find themselves at the foot of the table after a meek home defeat. The Perth side continually gave the ball away in midfield, leaving the forwards frustrated.

The return of local hero Stevie May and Drey Wright's first outing since November 2018 hint at better things to come.

"The damage was done in the first half," manager Tommy Wright told BBC Scotland. "It was a lukewarm performance, no energy. The tempo was unacceptable."

Stevie May made his St Johnstone return as a second-half substitute
Stevie May made his St Johnstone return as a second-half substitute

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