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  • Five-star Celtic sparkle in the Highlands

    Five-star Celtic sparkle in the Highlands

    By: Mark Henderson on 18 Oct, 2014 14:50

  • Scottish Premiership
    Global Energy Stadium, Dingwall
    Saturday, October 18, 2014


    (Guidetti 11, McGregor 14, Stokes 29, Denayer, 35, Stokes 55)

    A SENSATIONAL first-half showing from Celtic saw them beat Ross County 5-0 in the Highlands and bounce back brilliantly from defeat to Hamilton in their last league outing.

    John Guidetti, Callum McGregor, Anthony Stokes and Jason Denayer were all on target in the opening 45 minutes as the Hoops ran riot in the Highlands, with the hosts having no answer to the champions’ slick attacking

    There was only to be one more goal after the interval as Stokes bagged his brace with a thumping drive from distance as Ronny Deila’s men cruised to a comprehensive victory.

    The only blot on Celtic’s copybook was a injury sustained by Emilio Izaguirre early in the second half, which saw the defender leave the field on a stretcher, an obvious concern for the manager as he reflects on a dazzling display.  

    The Bhoys had been boosted before kick-off by the return of Mikael Lustig and Charlie Mulgrew from lengthy injury lay-offs. McGregor also returned to the side, having missed the Hamilton Accies match through illness. Efe Ambrose, Mubarak Wakaso – who had both been involved in the African Cup of Nations on Wednesday night – and Kris Commons dropped out.

    Straight from the start, Celtic took the game to the hosts, moving the ball around the pitch with pace and purpose. Full-backs, Emilio Izaguirre and Lustig underlined the visitors’ intent as they shuttled up and down the flanks, providing excellent width and sending in several dangerous deliveries.

    It didn’t take long for the breakthrough to arrive. Anthony Stokes’ free-kick was headed back across goal by Denayer and Guidetti was on hand to stab the ball over the line to continue his impressive start to his Hoops career.

    Less than three minutes later, the Super Swede turned provider, fastening on to Stefan Johansen’s raking pass and cutting the ball back for McGregor, who swept home beyond Mark Brown.

    It has been a blistering start from the Bhoys but they were far from satisfied, continuing to pour forward, forcing a succession of corners and free-kicks.

    And the home side’s defence was soon creaking again, as Johansen’s clever reverse ball was flashed across goal by Guidetti, with Stokes only inches away from connecting.

    But their respite was short-lived as Stokes added number three. Johansen threaded a pass through to the Irishman at the edge of the area and he expertly curled into the far corner.

    Celtic were running riot now, cutting County open at will with quick interchanges of passing - Scott Brown came close as his powerful effort was deflected narrowly over for a corner.

    But although Jim McIntyre’s men managed to defend that set-piece, they failed in that task from another dead-ball situation five minutes afterwards. Johansen’s delivery was headed goalwards by Guidetti.

    Goalkeeper Brown sprang to his right and made the save but the home side couldn’t clear to safety on several occasions, allowing Denayer to blast a shot into the roof of the net.

    And only a last-ditch intervention from Scott Boyd prevented a fifth goal on the stroke of half-time, the defender heading off the line after Johansen had beaten Brown. But it had been a storming first 45 minutes from the Champions.

    A serious-looking injury to the impressive Izaguirre in the opening minutes of the second half slowed down Celtic’s momentum for a short period. The Honduran had to be stretched off and he was replaced by Adam Matthews.

    But 10 minutes  after the restart, Stokes dished out further punishment to the hosts. Afforded time and space to take aim from 20 yards, the Hoops hitman lashed a fizzing shot beyond Brown via the inside of the post.

    With the points safe, and a number of important matches on the horizon, the manager rang the changes - Guidetti and Lustig leaving the fray and Stefan Scepovic and Nir Bitton handed a chance to impress.

    County finally mustered up some up some kind of reply as Joe Cardle curled wide and Michael Gardyne saw a shot hit the post.

    But the main threat was still emanating from the rampant Hoops, with McGregor denied his second of the afternoon by Brown after he had been put in the clear.

    And after a neat passage of play on the edge of the box, Scepovic drilled an effort narrowly wide of the far post.

    It was a confident and stylish victory for Ronny Deila's men, who can now look forward to the visit of FC Astra in the UEFA Europa League this Thursday.

    CELTIC (4-3-3) Gordon; Lustig (Bitton 59), Denayer, van Dijk, Izaguirre (Matthews 53); Brown, Johansen, Mulgrew; Stokes, Guidetti (Scepovic 67), McGregor.
    Not Used: Zaluska, Ambrose, Griffiths, Wakaso

    ROSS COUNTY (4-4-1-1) Brown; Toshney, Boyd (Quinn 46), Frempah, Carey; Brittain, Barr (Gardyne 30), Dunfield, Cardle; Kiss, Arquin (Jervis 46).
    Not Used: Reguero, Boyce, Quinn, Maatsen, Ross

    Website Man of the Match: Stefan Johansen

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