Ange vindicated, Starfelt struggles; 3 things we learned from Celtic win over Ross County

By Euan Davidson

December 15, 2021

We say this every game at the moment, and it was true again as Celtic faced Ross County: we really needed a win here.

The expectations at Celtic are always the same, granted. The team are expected to beat everyone domestically; Ange Postecoglou knew that, the players knew that.

So, a midweek trip to Dingwall in the winter cold, without most of our attacking players? You can bet there were nerves amongst the supporters prior to kick-off tonight.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Celtic still had some of their best players available, but added some rotational pieces for good measure. Liam Scales came into the line-up, with Josip Juranovic on the right of an attacking three, and Ralston coming back in his usual place.

And they played fine, initially. The first half was essentially total control. Celtic had 71% possession at the break, playing nearly 200 more passes than the Ross County [Fotmob]. The Hoops created plenty of chances, keeping the Staggies a fair distance from Joe Hart’s goal.

Ah, but that was the first half. The second was a different story. With Celtic really lacking options, the attack all too often looked blunt. A set-piece, our old friend, was the problem once again, with Ross County taking advantage of slack defending.

But oh, of course; Anthony Ralston had to make copy writers across Scotland rip up their notes. This was massive. On a night in Dingwall that could’ve been disastrous, Celtic pulled off a massive win.

Right then; what on earth can we make of that?

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Ange comments vindicated, right at the death against Ross County

Don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted after that.

So, too, will be Ange Postecoglou. The manager faced one of his most difficult nights, with half a team missing, Ross County refusing to be beaten and even a sending off for good measure.

Yet, Celtic won. They still found a way, and that’s absolutely massive. It also vindicates Ange Postecoglou’s comments about the resiliency of this Celtic team.

Yesterday, he said [Celtic FC]: “Our level of performances haven’t dropped. This group of players don’t want excuses, they want to go out there and prove themselves and overcome every challenge.

“As a manager, it’s brilliant to see as it means I have a really resilient group of players who want to be successful. They’re rolling up their sleeves further and digging in more and making sure we get through this period.”

The performance level certainly did drop, but these players just did not quit.

In the context of the title race, tonight could’ve been a real biggie.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Carl Starfelt endures one of his more difficult Celtic outings against Ross County

When Carl Starfelt took a knock to the face, you’d have to assume hearts were in mouths.

Another injury would’ve been a real, real problem for Celtic tonight. Without so many players anyway, being without Starfelt again would’ve been an issue. Especially with a Cup Final coming up.

He ended up being fine, but before that, the Staggies made the Sweden international’s life very difficult indeed.

Lacking some of his usual influence, Starfelt looked a bit ragged chasing the Ross County forwards. He lost 6 of his duels, winning just one, while his aerial dominance was lacking in this one.

In general, Ross County had something of a go at Celtic. And given that they don’t tend to finish games scoreless, there ought to have been a real focus on stopping Ross County. It wasn’t Starfelt’s fault that Celtic eventually conceded, but it was a disappointing defensive display.

Then, on 79 minutes, the last thing we wanted. Starfelt was sent off, and the way he was run ragged, it didn’t come as a huge shock. Even if the first yellow card was a ridiculously weak call.

A really bad night for the Sweden international. We can now add a suspension to the injury list.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

If it wasn’t clear before, it is now: Celtic manager needs backing

It’s going to take quantity, not quality, but the Celtic manager really needs support from the board.

It’ll come, but how much? The Hoops boss had to rely on a very young squad, with Liam Scales having a mixed night, Abada being relied upon to score and Owen Moffat coming on at a difficult point in the match.

The truth is, to mount a title challenge, it’s imperative to back Ange. There just isn’t the quality in the squad to endure such a gruelling schedule and expect to win every game.

Thankfully, the Hoops prevailed, but Celtic should really have made this more comfortable. But without some key players and any experience attacking options off the bench, this was going to be a struggle. And so it proved.

Eventually, Celtic ground out a miraculous win, with Anthony Ralston’s head saving the day. There will though, be nights where a late, late winner doesn’t come. That is, unless, the Hoops board are willing to put their trust in Ange Postecoglou.

Read more: Ange refuses to abandon tactics; explains Celtic team selection against Ross County