Saturday 19th March 2022. K.O. 3pm
Celtic Park. Glasgow.
CELTIC 4-0 ROSS CO.
Scorers: Giakoumakis (11,18,60 pen) Maeda (26)
A must win game that could see Celtic pull away further in the League with a victory seeing the Hoops 6 points clear of rivals rangers. If only for 24 hours.
There were two changes to the starting lineup from the one that started against United in the Cup Quarter finals. James Forrest was absent through injury with a knock that occurred in the cup game and was replaced by a fit again Jota. Tom Rogic was also preferred to Matt O’Riley.
Ross County arrived at Celtic Park on a mini three game winning streak and Charles-Cook leading the scoring charts with 13 goals in the league. It was anticipated as a stern test but one Celtic needed to deal with as the games fly past quickly with the season’s end in sight.
Celtic Park was basking in sunshine as the teams took the field and the atmosphere was building in the stands in what was a perfect day for football. Celtic put down a marker as early as two minutes when winger Jota got a shot away inside the box but he watched it fizz over the bar. Much of the early play was taking place up the right wing with Jota who seemed to have the license to wander.
It would take only 11 minutes for the Bhoys to open the scoring with the Big Greek striker Giakoumakis adding another to his tally. Jota, who had changed wings to the left, scooped a pinpoint cross to the back post where GG was waiting to head home to make it 1-0.
Just two minutes later and Celtic should have had a blatant penalty when Jota saw his shot blocked by Hungbo who had made himself big and stretched out an arm. The referee Don Robertson, who was only a yard away, waved play on which was a ridiculous decision and something we come to expect.
The second came on 18 minutes when Giakoumakis was on the mark again after another brilliant passage of play by The Bhoys. Carter-Vickers laid a pass on for Jota on the right, he played in an overlapping Juranović who lifted the ball beautifully to the back post. Maeda was waiting to head onto Giakoumakis, he saw his header cleared off the line but he was waiting in a prime position to head again and this time it hit the net to make it 2-0.
Callum McGregor was central to all things good and he lifted a dangerous ball into the box but Maeda’s close range header was tipped over the bar by Laidlaw in goal. He had to be agile again seconds later when a McGregor long range drive was turned around the right post for a corner.
From the resulting corner, Jota swung in a high ball that was met by the head of Giakoumakis. It went downwards where Maeda managed to stab a left boot to direct the ball past the goalie and into the net for 3-0. Cue the de-robing of most of section 111 to reveal a sea of sun blessed torsos celebrating in unison.
Celtic were absolutely cruising at this point and looked a danger every time we made it into the final third. The referee was negligent in his duty when he refused a foul on Maeda. Kayne Ramsay nearly cut the playmaker in half as he scissored him in the midriff but Robertson decided there was no foul and played on.
The decision cost County and Celtic dearly as minutes later the same player saw red for a brutal challenge on Rogic. If Robertson had called the first foul it is unlikely this tackle would have taken place and Rogic would not go off injured to be replaced by Matt O’Riley.
The Hoops had several more good efforts to pull further away in the first half but the keeper had a say. Greg Taylor saw his shot saved by the legs of Laidlaw but the best efforts saw a sublime passage of play between Hatate and Maeda.
Both players moved forward with 1-2s and a couple of back heels to each other to set up Giakoumakis who pulled his shot wide. On the stroke of half-time Maeda could have made it four but he fresh air swiped at the ball right in front of goal with only the keeper to beat.
Just a minute into the second half and more pleasing link up play with Maeda and Hatate with the former spraying across the front of goal only to be wrongly called for offside. Celtic had been totally dominant from the first whistle and they came out of the blocks keen to add to the goal tally.
On 52 minutes another blatant handball waved away by the referee again when the ball struck the upper arm of a County defender but he couldn’t keep it up all afternoon. Another handball in the box on the hour mark and Robertson begrudgingly pointed to the spot. Giakoumakis stepped up and coolly slotted the ball away to the left corner and sent the goalie the wrong way. It would be GG’s second hat trick in as many games at Celtic Park.
Postecoglou made two changes after that with Abada and Ralston replacing Jota and Juranović. Like games previous the subs introduction coincided with Celtic going down a gear as the job was done. Another great cross by Hatate saw the ball nearly turned in by a Ross County defender and then McGregor saw his shot from the edge of the box drag wide of the post.
That would be Captain McGregor's last effort as he made way for Bitton and Hatate replaced by David Turnbull after his long lay off with injury. Celtic were at walking pace now and happy to see the game out without any fuss. The Boss was happy and the fans were also delighted with how we went about the win in style.
It seemed like a tough tie on paper but the reality was far away from that narrative as Celtic were in cruise control all afternoon. Every player was exceptional but special praise must go to Giakoumakis, Maeda, Hatate and Jota. We now have a domestic breather as we go into the international break and up next is a trip to Ibrox. Hopefully we can stamp our intentions for the League title in this game and leave the rangers in the dirt where they belong.
MOTM: Giorgious Giakoumakis. Total headache for the County defence all afternoon and a great hat trick. Things seem to be clicking for GG.
CELTIC: Hart, Juranović, Carter-Vickers, Starfelt, Taylor, Hatate, McGregor, Rogic, Jota, Giakoumakis, Maeda. SUBS: Bitton, Abada, Turnbull, McCarthy, Johnston, Ideguchi, Bain, O’Riley, Ralston (4-3-3)
ROSS CO. Laidlaw, Ramsay, Baldwin, Lacovitti, Randall, Tillson, Callachan, Hungbo, Patten, Charles-Cook, White. SUBS: Vokins, Cancola, Spittal, Samuel, Watson, Burroughs, Drysdale, Munro Patton (4-2-3-1)
POSSESSION: Celtic 82%. Ross Co. 18%
SHOTS: Celtic 24 - 3 Ross Co.
SHOTS ON TARGET: Celtic 10 - 1 Ross Co.
PASSES: Celtic 744 - 171 Ross Co.
COMPLETION: Celtic 88% Ross Co. 52%