Bernabei Belter Seals the Deal for Celts

A stunning late goal from Alexandro Bernabei sealed the points for Celtic in Dingwall, as the Hoops maintained their 9-point lead at the top of the Premiership table going into next weekend’s Glasgow Derby.

A contentious penalty converted on the stroke of half-time by Jota gave Celtic the lead at the break, with the Argentine adding his goal 5 minutes into stoppage time at the end of the second half.

Celtic went into today’s game without midfield duo Aaron Mooy and Reo Hatate, wingers Liel Abada and James Forrest, and full back Anthony Ralston.   All either injured or left out as a precaution ahead of next week’s game.

Ange Postecoglou handed a first start in midfield to Tomoki Iwata, who looked assured throughout the 90 minutes, and was able to call upon the returning Daizen Maeda on the wing.

Persistence is Key

Celtic began the game in positive fashion, controlling possession and playing the game inside the Ross County final third for the most part.  Despite dominating the ball, Celtic struggled to create many clear openings as County packed the defence.

The first clear opening came from a set-piece as Carter-Vickers headed over after Alistair Johnston had re-directed Matt O’Riley’s freekick into his path.

Iwata then looked to set up his countryman Kyogo midway through the half, only for the latter to send his left foot effort wide of target.

From a Celtic perspective the first half was beginning to follow a repetitive pattern to so many games this season; Celtic controlling the ball but finding it difficult to break down a stubborn opposition.  For County, the game plan of frustrating Celtic and restricting space to play in behind was working.

Greg Taylor almost broke the deadlock on 42 minutes and was unfortunate to see his right foot effort rebound out off the post, as Celtic remained persistent in their approach.

The deadlock was broken on the stroke of half-time after VAR awarded a contentious penalty in Celtic’s favour.  The award coming after Ross County captain Alex Iacovitti was adjudged to have handled a cross from the left.

While there was no intent on Iacovitti’s behalf to handle the ball, his arm was raised and, as there was no other contact on the ball between the cross coming in and striking his arm, the call to award the penalty was probably correct.  Harsh, but correct.

Jota didn’t concern himself with the debate over the decision, and dispatched the penalty home to give Celtic a 1-0 lead at the break.

Bernabei’s Belter

Spurred on by the sense of injustice over the penalty award, Ross County raised their game in the second half and continued to make life difficult for Celtic.

On more than one occasion, County’s high pressing forced errors out of Carl Starfelt and Alexandro Bernbei.  The Hoops defenders perhaps a little fortunate not to have been up against more ruthless attackers.

As the half wore on Celtic began to regain the ascendency.  Jota saw an effort cleared off the line and Kyogo missed a golden opportunity from close range after being teed up by Maeda.

Ange rang the changes with 15 minutes to go, introducing Turnbull, Haksabanovic, and Oh to the fray.

The South Korean forward was a menace during the final quarter of an hour, displaying excellent ball control, strength, and a directness that was missing from the Celtic attack.  The sub went close on three occasions to doubling Celtic’s advantage but found Ross Laidlaw in good form in the County goal.

With the clock ticking down, Bernabei latched on to a wonderful no look pass from Jota to hammer home his first goal in green and white.

Three points secured and another step taken towards retaining the title.  From here on in, it’s all we ask.

On to the Glasgow Derby…

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