Celtic slam four past Ross County to extend their lead in the SPL
Published 26/10/2016 | 22:05
Celtic extended their lead at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership to seven points with a 4-0 win over Ross County at the Global Energy Stadium.
Hoops boss Brendan Rodgers made wholesale changes to the team which booked their place in the Betfred Cup final against Aberdeen with a 1-0 win over Rangers on Sunday.
Those players drafted in went out to impress from the start and winger Patrick Roberts scored in the third minute with a fine drive, although County did fashion several chances themselves.
Indeed, Staggies defender Andrew Davies hit the post with a header after the break but in the 83rd minute midfielder Stuart Armstrong clinched the points with a fine finish before substitutes Scott Sinclair and Moussa Dembele added further goals in added time.
The Hoops extended their unbeaten domestic run to 13 games and go further clear of Aberdeen, whom they visit on Saturday.
County, meanwhile, have had gone eight games without a win although boss Jim McIntyre will take some heart from battling performance before the late collapse.
Rodgers made eight changes to the side which started against the Light Blues at Hampden.
Emilio Izaguirre, Cristian Gamboa, Armstrong, Callum McGregor, Roberts, Ryan Christie, Liam Henderson and Leigh Griffiths all came into the side.
Former Rangers winger Chris Burke, who scored an injury-time leveller against Partick Thistle on Saturday, was given his first start for County as striker Liam Boyce returned from injury.
Celtic came flying out the traps and with just over two minutes played Roberts picked up an Armstrong pass, drove at Davies and turned him expertly before curling the ball low past Scott Fox with his left foot.
The home side appeared to be in shock but should have levelled in the eighth minute when Boyce forced his way into the box but his drive was blocked by the foot of Hoops keeper Craig Gordon.
However, Celtic reasserted themselves.
Griffiths had a shot blocked by County skipper Paul Quinn for a corner, which ended with Roberts testing Fox with a long-range drive, the keeper having to make another block from Christie after good work by the energetic Henderson in the build-up.
But County spurned another good chance in the 33rd minute when wide-man Michael Gardyne made a yard of space for himself inside the Hoops box, only to see shot escaped the far post by inches.
After yet another Fox save, this time from Griffiths, a curling shot from Davies cleared Gordon's bar as County finished the half with a flurry.
Celtic remained occasionally vulnerable at the back and in the 52nd minute Gordon required two chances to prevent Burke's powerful drive from 12 yards hitting the net.
Dembele replaced Christie and Sinclair came on for Henderson as Rodgers added quality for the final half-hour or so.
But in the 66th minute Davies headed a Martin Woods corner off the base of the post and Gordon scrambled it away before making a good save from Burke, who latched on to the loose ball.
It was a mighty effort from the Highlanders to draw level but they needed Fox to thwart Dembele with his foot after the France Under-21 striker had burst through the Staggies defence, but Armstrong was more clinical when played in by Roberts, rifling the ball into the corner of the net from 16 yards.
Sinclair missed the target with only Fox to beat but made no mistake in injury-time when he took advantage of Roberts' shot which deflected into his path to rattle the ball high into the net, with time left for Dembele to finish off from a Roberts cut-back.