Sat 6th August 2022. K.O. 3pm
Victoria Park. Dingwall
ROSS COUNTY 1-3 CELTIC
Scorers: Kyogo (48), Jenz (84) Abada (90)
A tie that is always a potential banana skin, away to Ross County at Dingwall and a place we dropped three points in February last year. There were concerns among the support with the absence of Stephen Welsh, who had a brilliant game against Aberdeen on opening day of the season.
Rumours resurfaced of a reported loan move but Ange quashed this theory and confirmed Welshy was ill and Hatate would be out with a knock. In their place was a start for new German defender Moritz Jenz, on loan from Lorient and David Turnbull.
Celtic fans pay respect to John ‘Yogi’ Hughes who passed this week.
The game was played at a very high tempo with Celtic continuing to build on the passing and movement game that has been so prevalent under Postecoglou. As the big man says ‘We never stop.’
Celtic had County camped out in their own box for the best part of 80 minutes only letting their opponents back in to level the tie and a short venture forward into the Hoops half.
The first half bore no goals and although we got the hard parts right, the final outcome saw the County keeper comfortably hold the ball several times as they were directed straight at him.
In Europe being clinical will be of most importance against a higher standard of opposition.
Jota was going about his business in ruthless fashion as he switched wings throughout and his crossing was class and that is something we have been missing for a few years at Celtic.
On 25 minutes a pinpoint cross by Jota to the back post saw Maeda rise and connect but went over. Ten minutes later and Laidlaw saved a Kyogo shot on his right side.
Another effort in 40 minutes would have been an early contender for goal of the season had it come off. Another cross from Jota and Maeda at the edge of the box tried to connect with a scissor kick, just not clean enough. O’Riley flashed a header wide minutes later.
Ross County managed to make it in at half-time level thanks to the siege mentality that had been employed by all 11 players in a blue jersey.
The second half was only three minutes old when Japanese Bhoy Kyogo broke the deadlock. Captain McGregor picked the ball up well forward on the left and made his way towards the box. He fed Jota who cut back to Kyogo and he was on hand to lash the ball home to put the Celts one up.
It should have been a case of Celtic kicking on but instead they let County back in to level the tie. Just around the hour mark a County corner was headed home like a rocket by Lacovitti to make the game 1-1. The Staggies had received a boost in the arm and at least now they managed to venture over the halfway line for a bit.
They could have actually gone ahead but Hart made a fantastic reflex save from a Free Kick when he only saw it flashing in the last second. In 66 minutes Ange brought on Giakoumakis, in place of Turnbull, to partner Kyogo up front.
To Celtic’s credit we didn’t panic and kept plugging away with the possession play and pushing forward. It paid off as new Bhoy Moritz Jenz opened his scoring account in 84 minutes and on his debut, the away end erupted.
The big German defender rose to bullet a header past Laidlaw at the back post from another pinpoint corner from Jota on the left. The place erupted but we knew it was coming. Jota was unplayable at the heart of everything, dictating the play and tempo and generally being the most influential component of the team.
The icing on the cake arrived in 90 minutes and another pass and assist from our Portuguese wing wizard Jota. His quick move and vision picked Abada out at the edge of the box. Abada, with his back to goal, turned and struck a tasty curling shot into the back of the net.
It was well deserved because the work rate these Celtic players showed the whole game is why we will be champions again this season.
Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou: "I'm really happy with the result and the performance. It's a difficult place to come but the players were outstanding at controlling the game and minimising their threats.
MOTM: Jota was immense throughout this game. He hassled and harried, he was delightful with the ball at his feet and totally gets when urgency is required. His crossing is something that has been missing from Celtic’s play for years. Three assists is no surprise. 9/10
ROSS COUNTY: Laidlow, Randall, Baldwin, Lacovitti, Purrinington, Callachan, Cancola, Tillson, Samuel, Paton, Hiwula. Subs: Owura, Dhanda, Sims, Johnson, Loturi, Harmon, White, Eastwood, Aderemi Olaigbe.
CELTIC: Hart, Juranović, Carter-Vickers, Jenz, Taylor, Turnbull, McGregor, O’Riley, Maeda, Kyogo, Jota. Subs: Starfelt, Giakoumakis, Abada, McCarthy, Bernabei, Siegrist, Forrest, Ralston
SHOTS: Ross Co. 5 - 23 Celtic
ON TARGET: Ross Co. 2 - 7 Celtic
POSSESSION: Ross Co. 22% Celtic 78%
PASSES: Ross Co. 181 - 616 Celtic
ACCURACY: Ross Co. 54% Celtic 85%