Ross County 1-4 Celtic: Celtic get in the Christie spirit early this year…

These are pivotal, potentially rewarding weeks for Celtic. Their fans belted
out Christmas songs, some with 
unfamiliar lyrics, as they got into 
the festive spirit.

Ryan Christie knocks home the rebound after his missed penalty to give Celtic the lead. Picture: Rob Casey/SNS Group
Ryan Christie knocks home the rebound after his missed penalty to give Celtic the lead. Picture: Rob Casey/SNS Group

It might be premature, as may be the mockery directed at Steven Gerrard for, among other things, never having
won a league title, but their team 
certainly show little sign of letting up.

This win in the Highlands was Celtic’s tenth in succession in all competitions since a meek 2-0 surrender to Livingston, one of the few occasions this season when they – and Ryan Christie – were off-key, with the midfielder sent off in the first half for a poor challenge on Scott Robinson.

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The run started with a 6-0 win over Ross County in the next game – which Christie sat out due to suspension. It continued here with another emphatic win against the same opponents and with Christie very much to the fore against his old rivals from Inverness Caledonian Thistle days.

He doesn’t have to prove anything anywhere any more, certainly not here in the Highlands. Christie guided the champions through a tricky assignment on his home turf.

He certainly knows the way to goal. He has now scored 16 times this season, 15 of them for Celtic. If there was any disappointment for him personally yesterday it was failing to net a hat-trick having scored twice in the opening half. He did come close and his maiden Celtic treble probably won’t be long in coming.

He hit the junction of bar and post with a swerving free-kick in the opening minutes. He also had a hand in the third, flicking the ball into Tom Rogic’s path. The Australian duly swept home his second goal of the season.

Substitute Mikey Johnston scored the fourth within seconds of replacing Rogic. Celtic’s options are abundant even when they are missing their top scorer. Well, top scorer until yesterday that is. Christie has now displaced Odsonne Edouard in that regard and with Celtic in such free-scoring form, the currently injured striker’s absence has not been as 
sorely felt as anticipated.

Lewis Morgan carried on from where he left off against Rennes in midweek. Deployed through the middle once more, he earned Celtic the penalty from which the visitors opened the scoring after just 11 minutes.

There was some initial confusion about why the kick had been awarded. There was a handball before Keith Watson clipped the heels of Morgan, with referee Nick Walsh viewing the latter as a penalty. Even when Christie
messes up, he still profits.

The midfielder did not hit his effort far enough into the corner and Nathan Baxter blocked the ball to his right. The ever-alert Christie pounced on the rebound and with the goalkeeper stranded, made no mistake.

Celtic were given a jolt just 13 minutes later when Ross Stewart headed in an equaliser that seemed to catch everyone, including the home fans, by surprise. The hosts managed to stretch the visitors down the left and Jeremie Frimpong took extreme action by hauling down Stewart.

The tall striker made his way into the box while Frimpong was booked. Josh Mullin whipped a fine delivery from the set-piece into the middle, where Christopher Jullien seemed to misjudge his leap. Stewart took full advantage of the opportunity to glance the ball past Fraser Forster from the edge of the six-yard box.

Six minutes from half-time, Celtic restored their lead.

Christie’s perpetual motion saw him pitch up through the middle. Kristoffer Ajer played him in with 
a fine through ball that split the 
middle of the hosts’ defence. Christie did the rest, finishing tidily past Baxter.

Rogic made the points safe just over ten minutes later after Morgan drove into the box before cutting the ball back. Greg Taylor nudged it on to Christie, who pirouetted to set-up Rogic with a chance he was never going to squander.

Taylor was again involved for Celtic’s
fourth. He released Johnston, who had just come on for Rogic, down the left. The substitute, clearly relishing this early chance to warm up, scampered into the box, darted between Richard Foster and Callum Morris, and fired into the far bottom corner past Baxter.

Another substitute could not make quite such an impact. His team-mates seem as desperate for Leigh Griffiths
to score as he is himself, but the 
striker was left frustrated during his 14 minutes on the pitch after replacing Morgan.

Indeed, Ross County felt they should have cut the deficit after Stewart struck what he fiercely believed was his second goal of the afternoon. It was not to be.

Referee Walsh did not wait for his near-side assistant’s flag and blew for offside against substitute Brian Graham, who he felt had impeded Jullien’s effort to retrieve the situation. The howls of frustration were still echoing as the stadium emptied and man of the moment Christie was being led off for another round of interviews.