Saturday, March 31, 2018
(Dembele 25, Armstrong 48, Rogic 60)
CELTIC resumed their return to Premiership action following the international break with a comfortable 3-0 win over Ross County at Paradise.
The Hoops were back to their best as they dismantled their opponents with fluid attacking football to extend their lead at the top of the table.
Moussa Dembele opened the scoring in the first half, and goals from Stuart Armstrong and Tom Rogic after the break made for a convincing win from the champions.
Brendan Rodgers made two changes to the side that were held to a goalless draw at Fir Park two weeks ago with Mikael Lustig and Scott Sinclair coming into the side at the expense of Jack Hendry and Odsonne Edouard.
The visitors immediately found themselves under pressure against a Hoops side that looked sharp and determined to open the scoring early on. Armstrong was the embodiment of that mentality and set about tormenting the opposition down the left flank.
He flashed a shot just over the crossbar early on after cutting inside with the ball from the left and firing a shot across the face of goal.
Shortly afterwards, the midfielder slid a great ball across the face of goal, which went unanswered, and then he saw another shot hit the side netting after doing well to create space for himself in the penalty area.
The Staggies were fortunate not to find themselves trailing by a few goals inside the first 10 minutes, particularly when Dembele dragged his effort just wide of the post, which came about after James Forrest floated a fantastic ball into the box.
Dedryck Boyata almost broke the deadlock when he came within inches of heading in from an Armstrong set-piece out on the right but the Belgian defender was flagged offside in any event.
The Hoops maintained a relentless grasp on the game throughout the first half and continued to pile on the pressure with wave after wave of attack.
Scott Sinclair joined Armstrong in terrorising the Ross County defence with an effort of his own but he was unable to test McCarey. His first chance was deflected out for a corner and he wasted a golden opportunity from the resulting corner when he fired wide from the edge of the six-yard box.
But it was Sinclair who won a penalty for Celtic when he was impeded by Jason Naismith in the box, and Dembele coolly tucked the ball into the bottom right corner to hand Celtic a well-deserved lead.
Celtic dominated possession for the remainder of the half but the goalscoring opportunities lessened as they became more patient in the build-up and looked to pick Ross County apart with some fluid flowing link-up play across the pitch.
One such instance of Celtic’s free-flowing passing came when Forrest played a neat one-two with Mikael Lustig inside the box. For the return pass the Swede chipped the ball up for Forrest to run onto but the winger’s volley was too high.
Ross County made life even more difficult for themselves shortly before the break when their captain Andrew Davies was sent off ploughing into the back of Scott Brown.
Celtic maintained momentum from
the first-half into the second and increased their lead only a few minutes after the restart.
Armstrong had been popping up all over the place and looked likely to get a goal at some point given his contribution. It arrived when he combined well with Forrest on the edge of the area and slotted the ball into the bottom corner with a deft left-foot finish.
The Scotland midfielder almost grabbed a second when Forrest ran across the face of goal and laid the ball off to him, but the shot took a deflection and substitute goalkeeper Scott Fox was able to hold on to it.
Forrest’s attacking play was instrumental in the Celtic’s third goal as he picked out Rogic’s run with well-timed pass. The Australian’s first touch saw him skip past Laim Fontaine and Harry Souttar could do little to stop him working space inside and tucking the ball into the bottom corner.
Brendan Rodgers brought on Patrick Roberts and Leigh Griffiths as Celtic continued to punish a 10-man Ross County with a constant threat in the final third.
The chances continued to come and Fox was kept busy throughout the remainder of the game. He was relieved to see Rogic’s half volley from the edge of the area miss the target and Griffiths narrowly flagged offside when through on goal.
As the clock ticked down, Griffiths and Roberts combined well inside the box and nearly made it 4-0 but the the Staggies had packed the area and desperately scrambled clear the danger.
The win increases Celtic’s advantage at the top of the table to 11 points and, with a game in hand still to play, ensures the quest for a seventh successive league title is nearing completion.
CELTIC (4-1-2-3) Bain; Lustig, Boyata (Hendry 45), Ajer, McGregor; Brown; Rogic, Armstrong; Forrest (Roberts 62), Dembele (Griffiths 70) Sinclair
Not Used: De Vries, Ntcham, Musonda, Edouard
ROSS COUNTY (5-4-1) Mccarey (Fox 44), Souttar, Fraser, Naismith, Davies, Fontaine; O’Brien, Curran, Routis, Schalk (Gardyne 65); Mckay (Dow 62)
Not Used: Ngog, Dingwall, Melbourne, Gallagher