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  • Griffiths bags a brace as Celtic earn Highland victory

    Griffiths bags a brace as Celtic earn Highland victory

    By: Mark Henderson on 08 Nov, 2015 17:41

  • Scottish Premiership
    Global Energy Stadium, Dingwall
    Sunday, November 8, 2015

    (Dingwall 59)

    (Rogic 38, Griffiths 54, 56, Bitton 75)

    LEIGH Griffiths moved onto 18 goals for the season after notching a quick-fire double as Celtic swept to an emphatic 4-1 victory away to Ross County.

    A sublime strike from Tom Rogic seven minutes before the interval broke the deadlock in the Highlands.

    The prolific Griffiths then struck twice in the space of three minutes early in the second half as the Hoops underlined their dominance.

    Although the home side reduced arrears through Tony Dingwall, Nir Bitton’s looping header sealed the spoils for the Bhoys to restore their six-point lead at the top of the table.

    Ronny Deila made three changes to the team that took on Molde in the UEFA Europa League match on Thursday night. Emilio Izaguirre, Efe Ambrose and James Forrest came back into the starting XI at the expense of Jozo Simunovic, Kieran Tierney and Kris Commons. Teenager Tierney, so impressive against the Norwegian side, was named among the substitutes, alongside new signing Carlton Cole.

    The rain had been pounding the pitch at the Global Energy Stadium for several hours prior to kick-off and it was Celtic who made the more positive start on the slick surface, moving the ball around at pace and probing for openings.

    Aside from a long-range Stuart Armstrong shot that flew wide, however, they failed to fashion a clear sight of goal in the opening exchanges.

    In fact, it was the home side who carved out the first meaningful chance as Liam Boyce headed wide when well placed from Richard Foster’s cross. The Hoops responded with an effort from the lively Forrest that flashed wide.

    With Jim McIntyre’s side well organised and compact, Celtic were struggling to plot a route to goal. Bitton and Rogic tried their luck from distance but failed to find the target, before Griffiths had a shot blocked in the box after purposeful play from Armstrong.

    Although the visitors were dominating possession, County still posed a threat at the other end, with captain Martin Woods failing to make a clean connection when picked out at the far post by Ian McShane’s corner.

    Griffiths had a couple of ambitious efforts charged down as Ronny Deila’s side persevered in their quest, despite the hosts’ resilient rearguard action. It took a moment of individual brilliance from Rogic to break their resistance.

    Collecting a pass around 30 yards from goal, the Australian internationalist skilfully evaded the clutches of Martin Woods before lashing a shot into the top corner from the edge of the area, sparking delirium amongst the travelling support.

    Stefan Johansen had an effort deflected into the arms of Gary Woods, while Rogic threatened with another piercing run as the Hoops sought further reward before the interval.

    But had former Celt Jackson Irvine not miscued his shot when the ball landed invitingly for him in the box, they could have gone in at the break on parity.

    County delivered another reminder that there was plenty of life left in his match within moments of the restart as McShane found space in the area but was unable to keep the ball under control.

    That stung the Bhoys back into action and Gary Woods had to come to his side’s rescue as he made a smart stop from Griffiths’ close-range effort after he had seized upon Izaguirre’s hanging cross.

    However, there was nothing the shot-stopper could do to prevent the in-form Griffiths from finding the net a few minutes later. Bitton picked out the striker lurking on the edge of the box and he danced away from Scott Boyd and another challenge before clinically finding the far corner.

    Moments later he made it 3-0 thanks to a fantastic piece of wing-play from Forrest. Accelerating down the right, he hit the byline and found Griffiths at the far post, and the forward swept home.

    The impressive Forrest then dribbled his way into the box but dragged a shot wide as the Hoops threatened to inflict further punishment.

    The Highlanders gave themselves a glimpse of hope when Dingwall fired home inside the box just before the hour-mark, and that was the cue for them to enjoy their best spell of the match, with Gordon making an outstanding save from substitute Alex Schalk’s header.

    But as County committed more men forward, it gave Celtic the space to exploit on the counter attack, and Forrest, Rogic and Griffiths all had shots as the game became more stretched.  

    With 15 minutes left on the clock, Celtic finally put the game beyond doubt as Bitton planted a header in the far corner from Armstrong’s corner.

    And only some decent saves from Gary Woods in closing stages from Armstrong and Callum McGregor prevented the hosts going down to a heavier defeat as the champions eased to a deserved three points.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Lustig, Boyata, Ambrose, Izaguirre; Bitton, Johansen (Mackay-Steven 71); Forrest, Rogic (McGregor 80), Armstrong; Griffiths (Ciftci 80)
    Not Used: Bailly, Tierney, Allan, Cole

    ROSS COUNTY (4-1-4-1) Woods; Fraser, Robertson, Boyd, Foster; Woods; Gardyne, Irvine (Murdoch 78), McShane (Curran 59), Dingwall; Boyce (Schalk 67)
    Not Used:  Severn, Franks, De Vita, Holden

    Website Man of the Match: James Forrest 

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