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  • Celtic extend lead at league summit after Highland victory

    Celtic extend lead at league summit after Highland victory

    By: Mark Henderson on 26 Oct, 2016 21:52

  • Scottish Premiership
    Global Energy Arena, Dingwall
    Wednesday, October 26, 2016


    (Roberts 3, Armstrong 83, Sinclair 90 +2, Dembele 90 +3)

    CELTIC stretched their lead at the top of the table to seven points, with a game in hand, after an ultimately emphatic 4-0 victory away to Ross County.

    Patrick Roberts opened the scoring for the champions inside three minutes with a fine solo goal and the winger had a hand in the three other goals for the Bhoys – though they had to wait seven minutes from time to double their advantage and fend off some spirited resistance from the Staggies, who had hit the post through Andrew Davies.  

    Roberts showed his quality in the final third by picking out Stuart Armstrong in the box with a precise pass and the midfielder made no mistake.

    And after Roberts’ drive had taken a wicked deflection deep into stoppage time, Scott Sinclair was on hand to bury the rebound.

    With the clock running down, there was still time for Roberts to jink his way to the byline and cut the ball back for Dembele who swept into the net.

    Emilio Izaguirre made his first league start of the season for Celtic as Brendan Rodgers reshuffled his pack.  The inclusion of the Honduran internationalist was one of eight changes to the Hoops team that lined up in Sunday’s League Cup semi-final victory over Rangers.

    Cristian Gamboa, Armstrong, Callum McGregor, Roberts, Ryan Christie, Liam Henderson and Leigh Griffiths also came into the side. Those to make way were Jozo Simunovic, Kieran Tierney, Scott Brown, Nir Bitton, James Forrest, Tom Rogic, Sinclair and Dembele, with the latter four named among the substitutes.

    Despite the alterations, the Bhoys were straight into their stride and opened the scoring with less than three minutes on the clock.

    Armstrong fed a pass into the Roberts and the English youngster drove at the heart of the County backline, dummied his way past one defender and then coolly picked his spot in the corner.

    The home side mounted a spirited response, with Ryan Dow shooting over from an acute angle and Craig Gordon blocking from Liam Boyce after the striker had burst through on goal.

    Celtic soon resumed the initiative, however, pinning the Staggies back with crisp passing and clever movement, and Armstrong brought out a save, albeit a comfortable one, from Fox after shooting from an acute angle.

    The lively Armstrong was then fouled on the edge of the box after aiming to collect a return from Henderson, with the latter curling the resultant free-kick over.

    Griffiths got his first sight of goal in the 19th minute after he was picked out by Roberts. Driving into the box, he pulled the trigger but his final attempt was deflected into the side-netting by Paul Quinn.

    As the champions continued to probe at the home rearguard, Roberts shot straight at Fox from distance and the former Celtic youth keeper came to his side’s rescue again, with a superb reaction save from Christie’s shot after some positive play from Henderson down the left.

    Although Brendan Rodgers’ side were dominating possession, the hosts were still offering a threat on the break.

    And after a Celtic move down the left broke down, Jim McIntyre’s side countered quickly, switching the ball from the ball to Michael Gardyne on the left and his effort wasn’t far away from creeping inside the far post.

    Up the other end, Henderson clipped a ball through for Griffiths who saw his powerful drive tipped round the post by Fox, much to the hit-man’s frustration.

    Growing in belief at Celtic’s failure to add to their tally, the Highlanders finished the half with a decent spell of pressure, with Martin Woods and Andrew Davies having efforts on goal, but the visitors held on to their lead.

    Looking to regain their control of proceedings, the visitors made an urgent start to the second half. Within a matter of seconds, Armstrong almost forced his way through on goal, before Henderson tested Fox with a low shot from distance.

    But Celtic then had to survive a couple of scares as the Staggies, determined to not let the Hoops have it their own way, surged forward.

    First, Woods slipped when ready to run through on goal and then Gordon had to make a superb reaction save when Burke lashed goalwards from close-range.

    Just before the hour mark, Sviatchenko headed narrowly wide from Henderson’s corner as both teams started to make changes ahead of the crucial closing stages.

    And the necessity for the Hoops to add a second goal was underlined when Davies headed onto the post and Gordon had to react quickly to push Marcus Fraser’s shot round the post. The Celtic shot-stopper also saw yellow when fouling Boyce as the forward chased a ball over the top.

    But Celtic’s class eventually told as they moved up the gears in the final 15 minutes, helped by the introduction of Sinclair and Dembele.

    The killer second goal arrived eight minutes from time. Roberts was the architect, smuggling a pass through for Armstrong who rifled into the corner.

    As County committed more men forward in desperation, the Bhoys ruthlessly inflicted further punishment as Sinclair atoned for an earlier glaring miss by converting Roberts’ deflected shot.

    And in the last action before the final whistle, Roberts worked his way into the box and spotted Dembele, who continued his prolific run of form to send the jubilant travelling support home happy.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Gamboa, Lustig, Sviatchenko, Izaguirre; Armstrong, McGregor; Roberts, Christie (Dembele 58), Henderson (Sinclair 63); Griffiths (Bitton 89)
    Not Used: De Vries, Rogic, O’Connell, Forrest

    ROSS COUNTY (4-4-1-1) Fox; Fraser, Quinn (McEveley 60), Davies, Van Der Weg; Burke (Dingwall 70), McShane, Woods, Gardyne;  Dow;  Boyce
    Not Used: McCarey, Morrison, Routis, Cikos

    Website Man of the Match: Patrick Roberts

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