FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED from Celtic’s 4-2 opening day win

Celtic began their defence of the Scottish Premiership title with a comfortable 4-2 victory at home on Saturday afternoon against Malky Mackay’s Ross County.  First-half goals from David Turnbull (x2) and Kyogo Furuhashi had the Hoops 3-0 up by the interval with Matt O’Riley adding a fourth in the second half, sandwiched between two goals for Ross County.

After a slow start, including a possible penalty shout for County after Hart failed to deal with an awkward pass back from Anthony Ralston, Celtic opened the scoring from the spot on 17 minutes. Greg Taylor was felled in the box, giving Turnbull the perfect opportunity to open his account for the season.

Kyogo swept home the second following an inch-perfect cross from Liel Adaba, and by the time Turnbull added his second Celtic were in complete control of the game.

However, poor defending at a Ross County corner allowed the visitors back into the game as Jordan White pulled one back.  Any hopes County had of a comeback were dashed on 73 minutes when Matt O’Riley lashed a right-foot effort past Laidlaw after a sublime lay-off from Kyogo.

Ross County grabbed a second late on when Brown’s shot deflected off Carl Starfelt and out of Hart’s reach.  As the xG Timeline for the game indicates, the score line slightly flattered Ross County who spent the majority of the game playing second fiddle to the champions.

From the Celtic perspective, there were many positives to take from the game, but a few warnings as well as Celtic were slow to start and looked rusty at times.  It is early days, however, but the signs are positive that Brendan 2.0 will be a success.

Return of David Turnbull 

David Turnbull’s future has long been a talking point on ACSOM, and elsewhere, as the talented midfielder struggled for regular game time last season under Ange Postecoglou.  The 24-year-old even made Paul John Dykes’ list of 10 players that could be shown the door under Brendan Rodgers, although to caveat that, Paul did hope that Turnbull would prove him wrong and become a success under the returning gaffer.

90 minutes into Rodgers 2.0 and it looks like David Turnbull may have found a new lease of life.  Two goals and a strong all-round performance against Ross County will have done his chances of an extended run in the side no harm at all.

With Matt O’Riley also relishing life in his new, slightly deeper role, we may now have a situation where Reo Hatate becomes the odd man out and has to settle for a place on the bench.  Whether the Japanese midfielder will be happy with that situation remains to be seen.

Farewell to Carl Starfelt

While David Turnbull looks like he is playing his way into a new contract and a run in the side, one player who now seems destined to leave Paradise is Swedish defender Carl Starfelt.  Rumours abounded pre-match on Saturday that the Swede was set to leave with Spartak Moscow as the favourites for his signature.

Post-match, Brendan Rodgers confirmed that Starfelt does harbour a desire to leave Celtic to be closer to his partner Jacynta who joined Sporting Lisbon from Celtic Women earlier this summer.  Starfelt’s own destination now appears to be Celta Vigo in Spain.

At the weekend, Starfelt was given the final 24 minutes as an opportunity to play at Celtic Park one last time.  After a rocky start to life at Celtic, Starfelt slowly won over the support, however, his deflection that led to Ross County’s second goal sums up his time at Celtic perfectly; he gave his all in the Hoops, but luck was rarely on his side.  All the best in Vigo.

Kyogo’s new role

Our very own Jerry Taylor made an astute observation on Monday’s ACSOM Bulletin noting that Kyogo might not score as many goals this season as he has in the past two, but that he’ll add more assists to his game.

On Saturday, Kyogo was visibly dropping deeper and finding space in which to link the play and bring others into the game.  One such example of his movement against County came in the 37th minute when he instructed Taylor to drop a pass into space around 25 yards from goal before collecting and sending Turnbull clear for a shot on goal.  A further example of his movement came in the second half as he showed his ability to peel away from his marker and clip a pass through for O’Riley’s goal.

Anyone who has watched Kyogo over the past two years knows he is a special player and a first-rate goal scorer.  But could it be that we’ve only scratched the surface of his abilities until now and Brendan Rodgers is about to take his game to another level?  What a thought that is.



Is Hart’s time up?

Alongside David Turnbull, Joe Hart’s long-term future has been another lasting discussion point over the summer with many fans, myself included, feeling that Celtic needs to bring in a new first-choice keeper sooner rather than later.

Saturday’s performance did little to convince me otherwise.  Hart is still a very good keeper, but we are now beginning to see errors creep in almost on a game-by-game basis.  His poor control of Ralston’s admittedly slack back-pass almost allowed Murray in for an early goal; had the County player not delayed his fall, he could also have won his side a penalty and put Celtic under real pressure.

It was also Hart’s failure to command the penalty area at a County corner that cost Celtic a goal midway through the second half.  He may be the best keeper on Celtic’s books at the moment, but if the club wants to progress in Europe, that may need to change before the end of the transfer window.

Early promise in Yang and Holm

Both summer signings were given late runouts at the weekend as Rodgers looks to bed his new players into the squad.

While only on the park for 10 and 5 minutes respectively, both Yang and Holm did enough to complement the promise they showed during pre-season, and look like they will be shrewd additions to the squad.

Kevin McCluskie

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