CELTIC boss Ange Postecoglou insisted his team “never lost momentum” as they came back from last week’s Scottish Cup exit to beat Ross County 2-0 in Dingwall this afternoon.
A 12th-minute header from Kyogo Furuhashi – his first goal in 2022 – and an opportunist’s effort from Filipe Jota three minutes from the end gave the Hoops the win they urgently required to restore their six-point advantage at the top of the Premiership.
Postecoglou’s men are now four games away from a remarkable championship success considering the team limped in 25 points adrift of Rangers in the previous season, a miserable campaign that saw a massive shake-up at the club.
HIGHLAND FLING…Ange Postecoglou demonstrates his delight in Dingwall.
The scene is now set for what could very well turn out to be a title decider against Rangers, who ended their dream of a domestic treble at Hampden, when the Glasgow giants lock horns at Parkhead a week today.
Reflecting on a job well done in the Highlands, Postecoglou said: “It was a strong performance. We know it’s a difficult place to come and play and they are a hard team to break down.
“We probably should have put them away in the first-half as we had enough opportunities, but to put in a strong performance, which was what we needed today, I thought the boys did well. They were solid defensively and they have some threats.
“Every chance they get, they’ll get the ball in the box, whether it’s a throw-in or a free-kick and they have got some big boys in there, so we had to deal with that. I thought we handled it really well.”
BACK IN THE OLD ROUTINE…Kyogo Furuhashi leaps above the County defenders to flash in a header for the opening goal in Dingwall.
The Celtic gaffer, speaking to Sky Sports News, stressed: “We’ve never lost the momentum; we lost a Cup semi-final in extra-time. We’ve been very good for a very long time, that’s why we sit where we sit, and, from our perspective, it wasn’t about a reaction from last week.
“We were disappointed, but it didn’t really affect anything in the league and what’s important for us is that we continue our good form.”
Kyogo got the ball rolling when he rose superbly to a right-wing cross from Jota to thump a header low past the helpless Ross Laidlaw to his left.
The Japanese hitman, who missed the first 17 games of the year, then hit the crossbar, had an effort ruled out in an extremely tight call from the linesman and missed a sitter after the keeper had fumbled a Matt O’Riley shot into his path.
And all that was in the first-half as the Hoops threatened to wipe out any threat from the Highlanders.
HAND IT TO ME…Filipe Jota accepts the applause of the Celtic fans after claiming the killer second goal.
In the end, though, they had to rely on a late killer strike from Jota after he pounced to turn in a rebound from a Giorgos Giakoumakis drive that had hit the face of the crossbar.
County boss Malky Mackay added: “It was always going to be a tough game for us, playing the league leaders – and they are a good team.
“I thought, first-half, we stayed in the game; they were pinging it around and I thought we stayed in the game well. I thought, second-half, we came into it. I asked them to play a little bit higher and get balls in behind them and try and see what we could do from there.
“At that point, I thought we did, and I thought in the second-half, we ended up having two or three chances and taking the game to them. But it’s a mark of where we have come to.
“We were playing against a very good team today.”