Clinical Celtic take three points away from Dingwall after seeing off plucky Ross County by five-goal margin
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Ross County 0
Celtic 5 (Edouard pen, Ajeti, Duffy, Ajer, Kilmala)
Ross County will count themselves unlucky not to take anything away from their match against the defending Scottish champions Celtic after a solid performance that came unstuck in the final half hour.
The Staggies made three changes from their last outing against Livingston before the international break, reverting to a back four, but they really had no chance to get a foothold in the game before Jordan Tillson brought down Odsonne Edouard inside the penalty area.
Andrew Dallas immediately pointed to the spot, and the French striker marked his return to the side from injury by sending Ross Laidlaw the wrong way, putting Celtic 1–0 ahead.
Knowing what happened in matches between the two teams last season, the Staggies could easily have crumbled after that early blow, but instead they responded well and were the better side for most of the first 45 minutes.
With Celtic playing three at the back, there was space in behind the wing backs for County to exploit, and they managed to create good opportunities on more than one occasion.
Billy Mckay thought he was through one-on-one with Vasilis Barkas until the offside flag stopped his progress, and Iain Vigurs nearly levelled things up twice from set pieces.
First a central free kick was aimed towards the bottom corner, which Barkas held on to with a good stop, before a cross from a dead ball out on the wing evaded everyone only to bounce back off the frame of the goal.
It all looked in vain though when Celtic responded with a second goal.
Olivier Ntcham's free kick was not dealt with, and Albian Ajeti reacted quickest to strike towards goal.
Although Ross Laidlaw seemed to have it covered, it somehow squirmed under him and over the line, which will have disappointed County's number one.
There was a further blow for the hosts when Mckay went down injured just after the half-hour mark, forcing him to be replaced by Oli Shaw.
In terms of the balance of play though, the second half picked up where the first left off as Ross Stewart was presented with a golden chance to pull one back from the centre of the box, only to see Barkas react quickly to make another low save.
Coming moments after Laidlaw had made a good stop of his own, it turned into an important moment as scoring the next goal would give County a fighting chance of claiming points to back up their performance.
Any hopes of salvaging a draw were dashed on the hour mark though, when Shane Duffy connected with McGregor's corner to head home from close range and score on his debut.
Only minutes later the Staggies were in danger of capitulating completely as Krsitoffer Ajer popped up at the back post for a simple finishon the end of Olivier Ntcham's low cross to make it 4–0, with the Hoops finding the net seemingly every time they troubled Laidlaw.
County again went close to scoring as Ross Draper saw a header kept out from close range, and Stewart was adamant that he should have had a penalty for handball as his follow-up attempt was blocked, but that did not stop Celtic adding to their tally.
Moments later, Patryk Kilmala went up the other end of the park and – after earlier being denied by a goalline clearance from Alex Iacovitti – finally found the net to make it 5–0 on the afternoon.
Shaw went close to scoring his first goal in Staggies blue since signing in January, only to see his well-struck free kick cannon back off the post 10 minutes from time – a moment which seemed to epitomise County's afternoon.
The final few minutes passed without major incident as both sides seemed to settle for the final scoreline, but strangely County can take confidence from the game knowing that their performance did not warrant anything like the 5–0 end result for the vast majority of play.