Celtic have a new darling as rare occurrence shows just where this team is right now
That the arena was bathed in such warmth to match the sunshine told everything about the contentment of the home support for the swaggering, effervescent football with which Ange Postecoglou’s men sliced Ross County to ribbons in a 4-0 win. And these denizens could feel sufficient delight to put their hands together for an exquisite, artful passing move that ended with Matt O’Riley flashing the ball just wide late in the first period because of what had come before.
Many, understandably, felt that the Highland side – on a three-game winning run – could be a tough nut to crack for Celtic as they sought a victory to put them six points ahead of Rangers, at least until the Ibrox men face Dundee on Sunday lunchtime. Instead Postecoglou’s men sledgehammered them with three goals inside 26 minutes as they attacked with artistry and abandon.
Celtic, now with a six-month unbeaten domestic record that encompasses 31 games, could hardly be in better shape for the acid test of an Ibrox meeting with their title rivals when the cinch Premiership resumes following the international break.
Postecoglou appears anointed over the manner in which his players, and notably his signings, are continually delivering for him. Giorgios Giakoumakis is the new darling. And it is little wonder when the County cuffing resulted in him bagging a second hat-trick in as many home games. With a 12 goal tally for the season his strike rate is now superior to even that of 16-goal Kyogo Furuhashi. The Greek, recalled to his national team squad this week, completed his treble by confidently slotting away a 59th-minute penalty, awarded for an Alexander Iacovitti handball.
It was a full-circle moment since he stewed for so long from missing a spot-kick into the same net when Celtic spilled two points against Livingston five months earlier.
Somehow the ball now appears a magnet for the striker in the six-yard box, his lethal zone. When Jota arced the ball into that area 11 minutes in, he was there to dink a header into the corner. A bit of head tennis led to him nodding in at a second attempt for his second seven minutes later. By which time the visitors’ goal was taking an almighty pounding. What Giakoumakis has not had this season is an assist but he put that to rights when he produced a downward header from a Jota corner that Daizen Maeda was able to stretch out his leg to nudge over the line.
Two minutes later, matters became even more desperate for Malky Mackay’s men when referee Don Robertson gave a straight read to Kaiyne Ramsay for taking both ball and Tom Rogic in a crude challenge. The Australian couldn’t continue, giving way to O’Riley a minute later, but the introduction of David Turnbull for the closing 20 minutes was the change to elicit thunderous cheers. The Scotland international had not featured since damaging his hamstring in the Sports Premier Cup final in late December, but now offers even more enhancement for Postecoglou’s final third options. As if they are lacking …