By Peter Cassidy
Rampant Celtic burst back into form against a struggling Ross County side with a performance that would have sent warning signs through the SPFL, telling that the champions are getting back to their best. A wonderful first half display saw them go 4-0 up before the break with what at times can only be described as breathtaking play orchestrated by an in form Stefan Johansen. A route seemed certain before took their foot of the gas in the 2nd half finally settling on a 5-0 score line.
The first half in particular would have restored a bit of faith within the Celtic fans, who were starting to have genuine concerns about a league table that saw them sit in 6th place and 9 points behind early runaway leaders Hamilton Accies, who themselves topped off a fine performance with a 3-0 victory over Aberdeen at New Douglas Park the previous evening.
Ronny Delia’s starting line-up saw Swedish right back Mikael Lustig back in the side, at the expense of birthday boy Efe Ambrose, and dependable utility man Charlie Mulgrew was back in the middle of the park after a suspension. The omission of last year’s top scorer Kris Commons from the squad would have worried Celtic fans as he continues to be linked with a move to Bolton but we are assured he was left out because of an injury. The Hoops had the bit between their teeth from the first whistle and looked desperate to make up for the woeful performance a fortnight ago in the home defeat to Hamilton. The fans who had travelled all the way from Glasgow for the early kick off were not to be disappointed as they were served up a feast of first half attacking football.
On loan Swedish striker John Guidetti is quickly becoming a new darling of the Celtic support and it was he who opened the scoring with a close range finish on 11 minutes after a Stokes free kick. Guidetti was involved again in number two with him playing the final pass to Callum McGregor who finished off a good team move on 14 minutes. The third would come 15 minutes later when Anthony Stokes ended a personal goal drought by grabbing his first in 10 games, the game saw a return to form for the Irishman and was a nuisance to the County defence who struggled with his movement. A goal by Belgian defender Jason Denayer from a corner finished off the first half scoring as Celtic went into the break 4 ahead. In all honesty it could have been more as Guidetti, who would have scored a second on any other day, put a through ball by Johansen narrowly wide of the post, and man of the moment Stefan Johansen was himself unlucky not to add to the route with a delightful chip that was just cleared off the line by a desperate Ross County backline.
The second looked like it would be much the same, as the one way traffic continued and Celtic staying dominant. Stokes made it 5 with a long range strike just before the hour mark but a flurry of substitutions then saw the game fizzle out somewhat, however the Ross County keeper still had saves to make to stop any further embarrassment. An injury to Emiilio Izzaguirre, who had been enjoying a good spell down the left hand side, was the only damper in an otherwise positive showing from Celtic. The fans will be demanding much the same in the coming weeks and months as they look to stamp their authority on the league once again.
Next up is Romanian side Astra at Celtic park where Ronny Delia will surely be looking for a similarly commanding performance to put Celtic in the driving seat in the group.
What did you think of the game?