It was good to see Celtic back in action yesterday and take another step closer to silverware. The encounter with Ross County did not pass without incident though.
From the moment the game started, Celtic were all over County. Stuart Armstrong was running the show in those opening 20 minutes.
There were plenty of chances, but no goal to show for it until Scott Sinclair, showing a little more confidence, was fouled in the box. The resulting penalty was converted by Moussa Dembele who is also beginning to look more like his old self.
Just before half time though came a moment of madness from Andrew Davies. The Ross County captain, making his 100th appearance for the club, stamped on the Celtic captain Scott Brown having already being felled by another County player.
No question about the red card that followed. It was an abysmal challenge that only had one intention.
Brendan Rodgers later spoke that some players in some teams are targeting Scott Brown. Given some of the comments by managers and pundits this season I would say that is probably more like ‘team instructions’ but there is plenty of footage to back up the Celtic managers claim.
Broony is not a dirty player. He’s made some meaty challenges in his time and is a physical player but he is no hatchet man.
Yet many see him that way. Or at least their reactions to the Celtic captain suggest as much.
When you see challenges like that one yesterday, you can tell Broony is a target. Two players pursued him as he moved ploughed ahead and after being taken down, the opposing captain stamps on him.
That sends out a message of intent, malice and poor character. It is not the first or the last time we will see that before the end of the season.
County lost their goalkeeper just before the interval as well. He was replaced by former Celt, Scott Fox and had an equally busy afternoon.
After the break, Armstrong imposed himself in the game once more. This time he hit a fine finish from the edge of the box.
Then Tom Rogic got his name of the score sheet. He collected a ball just outside the box, beat his man a put home a fine finish to round off a solid 3-0 win.
Overall it was a good exercise for Celtic without having too much in the way of trouble. 90 minutes for both Armstrong and Rogic as well as a run out for Patrick Roberts and Leigh Griffiths is positive sign at a crucial stage in the season.
Celtic are now three wins away from ensuring a seventh league title in a row. Dundee visit Celtic Park on Wednesday night and then it’s away to Hamilton next Saturday.
As I said yesterday, the earliest we can win this is on the first match of the post-split fixtures. We’ve yet to hear who that will be against and on what day.
Whoever it is I’m sure we’ll have our work cut out for us. There are no easy games after the league divides.
Rangers are in second place for the time being. They managed a comeback at Motherwell yesterday having come from 2-0 down to draw 2-2.
It was a good game, but it left me wondering why Motherwell were lying in 7th place. Having watched that game and the way they’ve played against Celtic this season, I think they’re worthy of a higher position.
They’ve got a very physical side and some talented footballers. I would expect them to be pushing higher up the league next season.
They will entertain Aberdeen on Tuesday night for a rescheduled encounter. They will be desperate to finish 6th though they are running out of matches to do so.
If Aberdeen flex their muscles in that match they will move up into second having beaten St Johnstone 4-1 yesterday. And that’s bad news for Rangers who are also being pursued by Hibernian.
The Easter Road side also won yesterday with a 2-0 victory over Partick Thistle. Like many teams, Hibs have a game at hand to play midweek and victory over Hamilton will put them a point behind Rangers.
So after Tuesday night the league could look a little like one of these:
Makes for interesting reading whatever happens.
Celtic will only be focussed on the visit of Dundee on Wednesday of course. The signs of Celtic’s strength are beginning to show.
Whatever teams are willing to throw at the Bhoys we are getting back to our best. Couldn’t have timed it better.
In the post match media conference, Brendan was posed yet another dumb question by the SMSM. The put down was sublime:
“Did the Rangers result give you a little lift before the game?”
“No not really. It’s completely irrelevant”
Loving your work, Brendan.