Celtic extend their lead at the top to 16 points
Brendan Rodgers’ side in confident mood ahead of derby date with Rangers at Ibrox
Celtic’s Stuart Armstrong celebrates scoring his side’s second goal during the Scottish Premiership match at Celtic Park, Glasgow. Photograph: Jane Barlow/PA
Celtic 2 Ross County 0
Celtic will head to Ibrox on New Year’s Eve 16 points clear of Rangers and unbeaten domestically this season following a 2-0 home win over Ross County.
While the Staggies put in a decent first-half showing, Hoops centre-back Erik Sviatchenko fired the home side ahead from distance in the 38th minute before midfielder Stuart Armstrong added a second in first-half added time.
Brendan Rodgers’ side cruised through the second half to improve further impressive statistics. With their 14th consecutive league win the Parkhead side extended their unbeaten run in Scottish football to 23 matches at the halfway point of the league campaign
Aside from their healthy points advantage over second-placed Rangers, the league leaders have a game in hand over their arch-rivals who drew 1-1 at St Johnstone.
As usual, Rodgers made changes. Defender Jozo Simunovic and midfielders James Forrest and Ryan Christie came into the Celtic line-up which was shorn of the suspended Callum McGregor, with Cristian Gamboa and Patrick Roberts dropping to the bench.
Three minutes later, however, Celtic passed up on an even better chance when winger Scott Sinclair headed a terrific cross from left-back Emilio Izaguirre past the post from right in front of goal.
The opening goal came out of the blue and from an unlikely source. There seemed no imminent danger when Sviatchenko moved forward with the ball at his feet but the Denmark defender caught everyone by surprise, including County keeper Scott Fox, when he drilled a shot from 35 yards into the bottom corner of the net for his first goal of the season.
That goal put the Parkhead side firmly in control and the second-half became a procession towards the Staggies’ goal.
In the 59th minute striker Leigh Griffiths headed a Scott Brown cross over the crossbar from eight yards, to his frustration, before he was replaced by Moussa Dembele.
The Hoops were denied a penalty claim in the 75th minute when Marcus Fraser upended Sinclair. The final stages, in which the visitors became slightly more emboldened, saw Gordon make a fine save from a Woods drive and an Andrew Davies header, while Fox saved a Dembele drive.
However, Rodgers side finished with plenty left in the tank and will relish the prospect of facing their old foes in the final game of the year.
GLASGOW CELTIC: Gordon, Lustig, Sviatchenko, Simunovic, Izaguirre, Christie (Henderson 63), Brown, Armstrong, Forrest (Roberts 71), Griffiths (Dembele 66), Sinclair. Subs not used: Toure, Bitton, Gamboa, De Vries. Goals: Sviatchenko 38,Armstrong 45.
ROSS COUNTY: Fox, Fraser, Quinn, Davies,McEveley, Chow, Routis (McShane 66), Woods, Curran, Schalk (Tumility 62), Boyce (Morrison 76). Subs not used: Dow,Tony Dingwall,McCarey,McLaughlin. Booked: Chow,Woods.
Referee: Nick Walsh (Scotland).