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  • Celtic fly the flag with opening day win over Ross County

    Celtic fly the flag with opening day win over Ross County

    By: Martin Dalziel on 01 Aug, 2015 14:27

  • SPFL Premiership
    Celtic Park, Glasgow
    Saturday, August 1, 2015

    (Griffiths [penalty] 4, Johansen 35)


    CELTIC celebrated the start of the 2015/16 season with a comfortable 2-0 win over Ross County at Paradise.

    The Bhoys controlled proceedings from the first whistle to last, scoring twice in the first-half through a Leigh Griffiths penalty and a Stefan Johansen shot from inside the box to effectively kill the contest, before continuing to dominate the game in the second-half.

    There was slight concern for the Hoops after Griffiths was forced out of action just 15 minutes after scoring but his replacement, Stefan Scepovic, acquitted himself well in his absence.

    The Bhoys made four changes to the team that recorded a vital 1-0 win over FK Qarabag on Wednesday evening, the most notable of which was the inclusion of 18-year-old Kieran Tierney, who filled in at left-back in place of the suspended Emilio Izaguirre.

    James Forrest, Efe Ambrose and Griffiths replaced Nir Bitton, Mikael Lustig and Nadir Ciftci to complete the changes.

    There was a party atmosphere in the air before kick-off as the fans packed out the stadium to see Hoops legend John Clark unfurl the league flag.

    And it wasn’t long before the support had a goal to cheer as well when Griffiths opened the scoring inside five minutes.

    A clever through ball from Virgil van Dijk had set the hit-man racing into the area but he was fouled from behind by recent Staggies signing Andrew Davies, leaving the referee with no option but to award a penalty.

    The striker stepped up and slammed the spot-kick low to the right of Scott Fox, who gcould only get the slightest of touches on the ball as it slipped underneath his body, giving the Bhoys the best possible start.

    The champions carried on their forward momentum as the game continued and they went close to finding a second after 17 minutes when Forrest burst forward from midfield and worked space for a shot, but Fox had his angles right and saved well.

    Ronny Deila was then forced into his first change of the match when Griffiths was removed from the action with an injury, allowing Scepovic to make his first appearance of the season.

    A moment of panic then fell over Celtic Park when former Hoops midfielder Jackson Irvine broke free from midfield for County and latched on to a loose pass, calling Craig Gordon off his line to meet the Australian outside his box.

    The Hoops keeper committed himself to the challenge and caught Irvine, earning himself a yellow card.

    Ian McShane took the set-piece for the visitors and curled a shot through the Celtic wall but Gordon saved well.

    The Staggies went close again minutes later through Craig Curran’s low shot from 20 yards but the Bhoys soon retained control of the match when Stefan Johansen finished a well-worked move to give the Celts a 2-0 lead.

    The goal came from patient play on the edge of the area before Gary Mackay-Steven adroitly weaved his way into the box and played a perfectly weighted pass to Johansen, who had expertly timed his run into the area and thumped the ball beyond Fox with his right foot.

    Celtic continued to dictate play after the break, working the ball down the wings through Forrest and Mackay-Steven, but County were pressing much higher and quicker, thwarting Celtic’s play in midfield.

    The game settled in that pattern until just before the hour mark when Gordon was called into action to save from Curran before Armstrong rounded Fox at the other end only to see his cut-back cleared for a corner.

    The chances at both ends sparked the game back into life, with Irvine emerging as a threat from midfield for the visitors as they played on the counter-attack.

    Ronny Deila made a double switch to regain control and gave Saidy Janko his first taste of competitive action in place of Tierney on the hour mark. Kris Commons also came on for Johansen as the Bhoys sought to kill the match.

    County still looked dangerous, however, and Gordon had to move quickly to save a stinging effort from substitute Raffaele De vita after Marcus Fraser beat Ambrose and Commons to cross.

    It wasn’t long before Celtic got back in control of play, mostly through Commons, who struck a thunderous shot at goal from 25 yards which was tipped over by Fox before Armstrong also went close with a clever chipped shot.

    The former Dundee United man looked in the mood to get on the score-sheet, as did Commons, who went close again with 10 minutes left but dragged his shot wide from right of the box.

    The wins gave the champions a positive start to the defence of their title and good momentum going into Wednesday's vital UEFA Champions League qualifier third qualifying round second leg against FK Qarabag in Azerbaijan.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Ambrose, Boyata, van Dijk, Tierney (Janko 60); Brown, Johansen (Commons 60); Forrest, Armstrong, Mackay-Steven; Griffiths (Scepovic 19).
    Not used: Bailly, Rogic, Bitton, McGregor

    ROSS COUNTY (4-5-1) Fox; Fraser, Davies, Boyd, Forster; Murdoch (De Vita 56), McShane (Graham 85), Irvine Quinn, Gardyne; Curran (Boyce 70).
    Not used: Bachman, Robertson, Holden, Franks

    Website man of the match: Stuart Armstrong


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