How Celtic effectively secured the title ahead of Rangers showdown next week

Pressure, what pressure, Ange Postecolgou’s men seemed to be scoffing as they strolled to three points that put them – essentially – within a derby victory next week of rubber-stamping their title success.

In truth, though, as soon as a Jota 87th minute strike made certain of the win in the Highlands, real doubts about the destination of the cinch Premiership were effectively removed. The traveling support, and the posse of players led by the Portuguese winger that let loose on the most almighty celebrations, certainly betrayed thinking as much. “Champions again oh-way, oh-way” was the chant that rang out, and there will be no denying their club a 10th title in 11 years.

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Even with their hosting of Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side next week, a six-point lead and a 19-goal difference superiority, makes Celtic unassailable across the final four games. Now unbeaten in 28 top flight encounters, they have won 24 of these, with only three draws since October. If you do the arithmetic, then, it means they would require to drop more points in the next three weeks than they have in the previous seven months to be dislodged from the summit. There is more chance of Boris Johnston having a crisis of conscience – or in fact simply revealing he actually possesses a conscience – than that happening.

There was always one ginormous flaw in the contention floated by some last week that Celtic’s loss of a nothing-in-it Scottish Cup semi-final against Rangers could precipitate a title collapse: And that was that it seemed to overlook the fact that the Europa League semi-finalists from down Govan way operate on a different level from every club – beyond them – Postecoglou’s men will face in the championship run-in.

The evidence of that was there for all to see from the early minutes at Dingwall. County may have excelled in forcing their way into the top six, but they couldn’t lay a glove on visitors that were so unsettled and rumbled-up at Hampden the previous weekend. From those earliest exchanges, an opening goal was in the post. And it wasn’t any great surprise that when it arrived 12 minutes in, it should be the returning Kyogo Furuhashi that bagged it. Celtic have missed his double-act with Jota in the four months since the Japanese forward had started a game because of the hamstring problem he sustained on Boxing Day.

There was a sense of Postecoglou’s men being back in the old routine, then, when Callum McGregor spread the ball out wide right to the Benfica loan player and he twisted Jake Vokins one way then another before curling the ball on to the head of Furuhashi, who headed it back across the helpless Ross Laidlaw.

Celtic thereafter missed a hatful of chances as they created more than 20 openings, with Furuhashi’s lack of match sharpness evident in a series of missed chances that could have snared him a hat-trick before the interval.

Celtic’s Kyogo Furuhashi heads home a 12th minute opener against Ross County. (Photo by Alan Harvey/SNS Group)

Malky Mackay’s side had a spell early in the second period but Celtic’s were resolute as they moved towards inflicting on the Highland club their first home defeat since the added-time earned 2-1 win from Postecoglou’s men in their last visit. Even the minutest potential for that not being doubled up evaporated when an effort from substitute Giorgos Giakoumakis that shimmered the bar rebounded down into the area in front of the lurking Jota, who slid in to knock the ball over the line. In doing so, I have all but assured his club will cross another. The finishing one.

Jota celebrates after putting Celtic two goals up on Ross County. (Photo by Alan Harvey/SNS Group)
Ross County’s Regan Charles-Cook is tackled by Celtic’s Cameron Carter-Vickers and Callum McGregor. (Photo by Craig Williamson/SNS Group)

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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