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  • Frustration as Celts held in Paradise

    Frustration as Celts held in Paradise

    By: Mark Henderson on 24 Apr, 2016 17:01

  • SPFL Scottish Premiership
    Celtic Park, Glasgow
    Sunday, April 24, 2016

    (Griffiths 23)

    (Murdoch 64)

    LEIGH Griffiths’ 38th goal of the season was only enough to secure Celtic a share of the spoils against Ross County in Paradise, though the champions did extend their lead in title race to nine points with four games remaining.

    The striker put the Hoops in front midway through the first-half with a fantastic strike from 18 yards but Ronny Deila’s side never built on that advantage and the visitors drew level in the second-half through Stewart Murdoch’s blistering shot.

    The Bhoys had plenty of possession but they couldn’t fashion a winner in the closing stages as the game ended in a frustrating stalemate.

    Tom Rogic came into the starting XI to make his 50th appearance for the club as the Hoops made three changes for the visit of the Highlanders. Erik Sviatchenko and Colin Kazim-Richards were also restored to the side, with Stefan Johansen, Dedryck Boyata and Gary Mackay-Steven dropping out.

    And it didn’t take long for Rogic to provide some creative spark, driving towards the edge of the box and teeing-up Griffiths who curled over.

    Cutting inside off the right flank, Patrick Roberts was also lively in the opening exchanges and he inadvertently forced Scott Fox into action for the first time when his cutback cannoned off Ian McShane’s foot towards goal, but the County keeper reacted quickly to save his team-mate’s blushes.

    Roberts’ trickery and inventiveness continued to look Celtic’s most likely outlet against the well-organised visitors who were defending in depth and in numbers, but clear-cut chances were proving hard to come by.

    On the opposite side of the pitch, Kieran Tierney’s drive and determination almost fashioned an opening in the 21st minute. Bursting forward with purpose, he found Griffiths inside the box but the striker’s cross was knocked behind by Paul Quinn.

    Just as frustration was beginning to grow among the home support, a moment of magic from Griffiths broke the deadlock. Kazim-Richards picked out the hit-man lurking near the edge of area and he worked the ball on to his weaker right-foot before lashing an unstoppable shot into top corner.

    Despite lining up with two frontmen in Liam Boyce and Alex Schalk, County had failed to threaten the Celtic goal until Boyce knocked McShane’s free-kick wide at the near post.

    And they remained largely preoccupied with defensive duties as the Hoops, boosted by making the breakthrough, sought to add to their tally.  

    Rogic saw an ambitious long-range effort saved by Fox and the Australian was then unable to capitalise on an excellent opening, volleying over from close-range after wonderful wing-play from Roberts.

    Fox made another smart save from Bitton’s dipping shot in the 34th minute, before a set-piece gave the visitors another glimmer of goal. Although Celtic dealt with the initial ball into the box, when it was knocked back into the area, Quinn was in acres of space but Craig Gordon was alert to avert the danger.

    County were now enjoying their best spell of the game and McShane brought out another save from Celtic’s No.1 with a drive from distance, while Boyce should have probably found the net from Jonathan Franks’ cross instead of heading straight at Gordon.

    Back came the Bhoys and Kazim-Richards drifted in from the left and fired over from 20 yards as the hosts went in at the break holding a narrow advantage.

    Jim McIntyre’s side served another reminder of how slender that lead remained at the start of second half as Michael Gardyne blazed over at the far post after Boyce had flicked on Franks’ cross.

    Celtic responded with a curling shot from Roberts that flew over and a dipping free-kick from Griffiths that Fox could only push wide.

    After a Hoops attack had broken down on the edge of the box, County broke at speed and Schalk found himself with only Charlie Mulgrew between him and a clear shot at Gordon. The Dutchman eventually pulled the trigger but couldn’t keep his shot down.

    That stung a response from the home side as Griffiths and Roberts saw low efforts saved by Fox but it was the Staggies would grab the next goal. Celtic could only partially clear McShane’s corner and Murdoch lashed a venomous 30-yard shot beyond Gordon, whose complaints of an offside flag proved in vain.

    As the hosts sought to restore their advantage, a driving run from Roberts gave Bitton a sight of goal but the midfielder couldn’t keep his attempt down, and Kazim-Richards flashed a shot agonisingly wide following good play from Tierney.

    Substitutes Callum McGregor and Kris Commons brought out saves from Fox, and Griffiths had a shot blocked by Chris Robertson, as Celtic applied some late pressure but a winner was not forthcoming.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Lustig, Sviatchenko, Mulgrew (Ambrose 90), Tierney; Brown, Bitton; Roberts, Rogic (McGregor 64), Kazim-Richards (Commons 81); Griffiths
    Not Used: Bailly, Armstrong, Christie, Mackay-Steven

    ROSS COUNTY (3-5-2) Fox; Fraser, Quinn, Robertson; Franks (De Vita 78), Irvine, Murdoch, McShane, Gardyne; Boyce (Goodwillie 60), Schalk (Graham 90 +2)
    Not Used: Woods, Boyd, Dingwall, McLaughlin

    Website Man of the Match: Erik Sviatchenko


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