Wednesday 25 April 2018

Hooper strike sets up Celtic


Celtic's Daniel Majstorovic rises highest to score against Ross County last night
Celtic's Daniel Majstorovic rises highest to score against Ross County last night

Ross County 0 , Celtic 2, Gavin McCafferty

Gary Hooper's early goal sent Celtic on their way to a comfortable win at Dingwall last night as they avoided another shock against Ross County and bounced back from the Old Firm defeat.

Hooper netted from close range after a 14th-minute corner before Scott Boyd's own goal early in the second half removed any doubt about the outcome of the Scottish Communities League Cup third-round tie.

Celtic survived one tense moment in between the goals when Michael Gardyne volleyed against the post, but County otherwise did not look like emulating their 2010 Scottish Cup semi-final win over Neil Lennon's men amid torrential rain.

Celtic are much changed from the team that suffered arguably the biggest shock in the club's history -- none of the players who featured at Victoria Park played at Hampden -- but they went into the game under pressure following consecutive defeats by Atletico Madrid and Rangers.

Lennon admitted he made selection errors for the 4-2 loss at Ibrox and the Celtic manager made five changes last night.

Mark Wilson, Georgios Samaras, Scott Brown and Ki Sung-yueng all missed out through injury, with Wilson also suspended, while Glenn Loovens dropped out of the squad. Adam Matthews, Daniel Majstorovic, Joe Ledley, James Forrest and Anthony Stokes came in.

There was no place in the 16 for Kris Commons, who Lennon had stated was in contention to play. Commons, who was at Victoria Park, posted on Twitter on Sunday that he had been available to face Rangers, but Lennon later insisted he had been left out of the squad for Ibrox because of a tight groin.

But Celtic quickly settled their nerves after a scrappy start when Hooper netted, tapping home after Ledley had headed goalwards.

Celtic survived a scare in the 20th minute when Kelvin Wilson's weak headed clearance was met full on the volley by Gardyne, whose 22-yard strike bounced off the post.

County had the final chance of the half though when Badr El Kaddouri failed to clear and Rocco Quinn sent the ball low into the box, but Colin McMenamin could not connect properly with his volley and Fraser Forster made a comfortable save.

Wilson, who needed treatment to his lower leg after a foul by McMenamin, did not come out for the second half. Victor Wanyama came on in central midfield with Mulgrew moving to centre-back and Ledley switching to the left.

Celtic moved two ahead in the 52nd minute. Fraser held Hooper's 20-yard shot at the second attempt and gave the ball to Iain Vigurs, but the midfielder was caught in possession deep inside his own half. Celtic eventually worked the ball to Stokes on the right and he sent in a driven cross that was turned home by Boyd for the clincher.

Irish youngster Paul George almost grabbed his first goal for the Hoops moments after coming on when he turned Ledley's low cross towards goal in the closing stages, but Fraser dived to make a brilliant stop.

•Former Celtic player Mark Millar scored an injury-time winner for Falkirk as they knocked Rangers out of the CIS Cup 3-2. The Glasgow giants had come back from 2-0 down with two late goals.

Irish Independent

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