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  • Champions held by Ross County in the Highlands

    Champions held by Ross County in the Highlands

    By: Mark Henderson on 16 Apr, 2017 14:35

  • Scottish Premiership
    Global Energy Stadium, Dingwall
    Sunday, April 16, 2017

    ROSS COUNTY...2
    (Garydne 50, Boyce pen. 90)

    CELTIC...2
    (Tierney 34, Roberts 78)

    CELTIC extended their unbeaten run in domestic football this season to 40 matches but the champions were denied a deserved victory away to Ross County at the death by a controversial refereeing decision.

    Kieran Tierney’s long-range strike had the Hoops in front at the interval after they had completely dominated the first half.

    The Highlanders restored parity through Michael Gardyne early in the second half but the Hoops looked to be cruising to another three points when substitute Patrick Roberts restored their advantage with a sublime solo effort.

    But in the dying seconds, referee Don Robertson somehow awarded a penalty to the home side after Alex Schalk had gone down in the box without being touched. Liam Boyce converted from the spot and the visitors’ understandable frustration boiled over as Scott Brown saw red in stoppage time for a late tackle on Boyce.    

    Tom Rogic took another significant step forward following his long injury lay-off, starting his first game since mid-December in one of three changes made by Brendan Rodgers to the team that beat Kilmarnock last weekend.

    Now fully fit after his spell on the treatment table, Moussa Dembele came in to spearhead the attack, while Erik Sviatchenko was restored the backline. Dedryck Boyata, Mikael Lustig and Patrick Roberts dropped out.

    Backed by their vocal travelling support, Celtic quickly assumed control of proceedings, bossing possession and pinning the hosts back.

    Although they fashioned a number of promising positions, it took until the 17th minute for the champions to force Scott Fox into action as Tierney’s low effort from distance was saved by the former Celtic youth player at his near post.

    Moments later, Callum McGregor drove to the byline and attempted to pick out Dembele in the middle. In the melee that followed Rogic knocked the ball back across goal and James Forrest’s effort was charged down by Kenny Van Der Weg.

    County captain Andrews Davies was next to come to the rescue of his side, making a last-ditch block to prevent Forrest’s low cross reaching the unmarked Dembele.

    Although it was one-way traffic, the home side, encamped around their own box, were working hard to deny Celtic space, and it took a moment of individual inspiration from Tierney to break the deadlock. There looked little danger when the 19-year-old received a pass 30 yards from goal but he took a touch before sending a blistering strike into the far corner.

    It had no effect on the flow of the game as the Hoops continued to stroke the ball around and probe for openings. Tim Chow did manage to register an effort on target for the Staggies after a loose ball dropped to him in the box. His weak volley was easily gathered by Gordon, however.

    For all their dominance, it was a reminder to Celtic of the slenderness of their lead – and within five minutes of the restart, the match was level. Ryan Dow engineered some space down the left and his inviting cross was met by Gardyne, whose looping header found the net via the underside of the bar.

    Playing with renewed belief and purpose, the Staggies threatened to complete a swift turnaround, with Davies having a header saved by Gordon and Liam Boyce missing his kick when well-positioned.

    Seeking to regain the ascendency, Brendan Rodgers introduced all three of his substitutes within the space of six minutes, as Leigh Griffiths, Cristian Gamboa and Roberts replaced Rogic, Dembele and Forrest. It had the desired effect.

    Griffiths – making his first appearance since a back injury sustained on international duty last month for Scotland - tested Fox with ferocious, dipping shot which the keeper could only gather at the second attempt.

    A moment of magic from Roberts then put the Bhoys back in front. Darting in from the right, the winger nutmegged Van Der Weg and rolled the ball under Fox and into the far corner.

    Celtic were back in complete command, and Stuart Armstrong came within inches of sealing the win when his free-kick crashed off the bar.

    But there would be a further controversial twist in the tale. As the clock ticked down, substitute Schalk went down without being touched in the slightest by Sviatchenko. Inexplicably, referee Robertson pointed to the spot and Boyce found the net from 12 yards.

    As the Hoops piled forward in search of a late winner, Brown got his marching orders for a late challenge on Boyce, sparking a melee on the pitch.

    CELTIC (3-4-2-1) Gordon; Simunovic, Sviatchenko, Tierney; Forrest (Roberts 69), Brown, Armstrong, McGregor; Rogic (Gamboa 63), Sinclair; Dembele (Griffiths 63)
    Not Used: Bailly, Toure, Izaguirre, Kouassi

    ROSS COUNTY (5-4-1) Fox; Tumilty (Schalk 83) Naismith, Davies, Fraser, Van Der Weg; Gardyne (Franks 90), O’Brien (Routis 85), Chow, Dow; Boyce
    Not Used: McCarey, Curran, Dykes, Lalkovic

    Website Man of the Match: Jozo Simunovic

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