After the draw that will lead Celtic to a glamorous tie against Juventus, Neil Lennon’s men returned to domestic action with a home game against Ross County. The ‘Bhoys’ will have to wait until February to be enlightened by the European games, meanwhile they will try to go on a good run of wins to distance themselves from the rest of the teams competing for the second spot. The coldness at Celtic Park is an usual thing when domestic competitions are being played there. The electric frenzy and thunder lived on European nights makes way for 35 000 or 40 000 fans that hope to see a good display from their team. As the weeks pass, this hope makes way for frustration, but this is made up due to the excellent form in European competitions. One wonders what will happen with home attendances once Celtic are out of Europe…
Indifferent first half
Today that coldness was shared by the starting lineup, which included a working and battling midfield, but once again, these atributes were not combined with creativity. The first ten minutes let both teams settle while the visitors get in safer positions to maintain the 0-0 draw. The chances start coming with costless-kicks and corners, but they are usually well defended by Celtic’s rivals. The first attempt on goal was Mulgrew’s, he shot after a short assist from Samaras, the Scot’s shot was easily saved.
Celtic ran the midfield to dislocate Ross County’s defensive system, but their pace led to some exposure at the back, this helped the visitors to create many chances that were either saved by Forster or too powerful and inaccurate to trouble the ‘Bhoys’ keeper. The home team looked in trouble sometimes and created almost no danger on Ross County’s area while the score line remained the same. The same script Celtic Park has been watching during all this season (bar the Champions League games).
Celtic have more in their locker than Ross County, and that's what they wanted to show during the second half. The final 45 minutes started at full pace, and Brown made it 1-0 after a fine assist from Hooper, whose pass found the captain behind the visitors’ back line. His low shot went past former Celt Mark Brown to finally break the lock on the 46th minute. The goal helped Celtic to get the pressure off their back, and minutes later they extended their lead with a header from Hooper. Lassad's assist from the left found the English hitman alone, with no pressure. He headed the ball past Brown to give the calm Celtic needed.
It was not Celtic's best performance of the season, but it was still powerful enough to brush off Ross County's pressure. Derek Adams' men were anonymous on the second half, and didn't look like being able of stopping the hosts' attacking forces. Hooper added another goal to his tally when he headed the resulting ball of a "tussle" between Mark Brown and Wanyama. Euan Norris looked like he was going to disallow the goal, but it finally counted to bring the match to bed. The 'Bhoys' at Celtic Park could see the return of James Forrest, an exciting player that offers something different to the rest: pace and some needed trickery. The Prestwick man celebrated his first appearance in two months with a goal after a good run. His left-footed shot was deflected by a defender before hitting the net.
Overall, Celtic had finally an easy afternoon, they had the same old problems during the first half, but solved them with confidence on the second one. The final scare was James Forrest injury; he could play the final minutes but Celtic's medical stuff will have to look at him again to see if the problems that have hampered his consistence are there once again. With these three points, Celtic are still on the top with 37 points, 5 points more than second-placed ICT, on 32 points after 19 games, one more than the 'Bhoys'. Christmas' fixtures could well end up with some presents for the Celtic faithful, the league could be truly decided if they can get on a similar run to the one they had one year ago. They will now visit Dundee on Tuesday just before a tricky visit to Easter Road, where they will face Hibernian. Two away games, having seen that Celtic's best performances in Scotland this season have been away from home, it seems like Neil Lennon's men can build in some momentum just before the end of the year.