Ange words ring true, Mooy verdict; 3 things we learned as Celtic see off Ross County

By John McGinley

August 31, 2022

Celtic have started the defence of their Scottish League Cup crown positively, comfortably seeing off the threat of Ross County with a 4-1 win in Dingwall tonight.

Goals from Callum McGregor and Giorgos Giakoumakis in the first half sent Ange Postecoglou’s Bhoys on their way to victory before Daizen Maeda and James Forrest put the result beyond doubt in a match that never looked in danger of going against the visitors.

With nine changes to the starting line-up, there’s lot to discuss. What are the big takeaways? Here are three of ours…

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Ange is right, the full squad is ready to go

For weeks, the Celtic manager has been telling us that, despite him making consistent starting eleven selections, the players not featuring were looking as sharp and ready to go as ever. The strength of training has been talked up by Postecoglou consistently. We had no reason to doubt him of course, but it was certainly pleasing to see it all in action for our own eyes tonight.

By making nine changes for the cup clash, the manager was effectively selecting an different team and the intensity of performance didn’t look a million miles away from what we’ve seen in Premiership action.

Anthony Ralston, James Forrest, Giorgos Giakoumakis and more – most of the incoming players looked sharp and eager to make their mark. It’s a very positive sign heading deeper into the season.

Aaron Mooy’s first Celtic start

There’s been real intrigue about what Celtic are getting with the signing of Aaron Mooy this season. What kind of role will he play? How often will he feature? Has he lost too much of his game in China?

We don’t know the answers to all of the questions surrounding the Australian international but he was very effective tonight. Sitting in the ‘number 6’ role, Mooy was a calm and consistent presence in the middle of the park, distributing the ball effectively and dictating the pace of play.

As you’ll know, he isn’t the quickest and doesn’t have the sharpest movement profiles. But he reads the game impeccably and often times the release of his pass well based on the position of his teammates and opposition.

My initial take on Mooy’s signing was that he was Postecoglou’s direct Nir Bitton replacement. Everything I’ve seen since then has backed that up. He’ll get 30 to 40 games this season from the bench and select starting appearances. I don’t think he’ll let us down. He certainly didn’t tonight.

Photo by Steve Welsh/Getty Images

More debut snippets

There were several firsts in the Celtic team tonight. Ben Siegrist’s competitive debut. Alexandro Bernabei’s first start. Sead Haksabanovic making a debut off the bench.

Siegrist did his job well. He didn’t have a tonne of action in his box but he didn’t look slack in possession and he did make one particularly good save in the second half with the game at 3-1. Jordy Hiwula managed to find space and powerfully struck an effort from from 18 yards but the Swiss goalie got a strong hand to it.

Bernabei is clearly still adjusting to life at Celtic and, for me, was a level below what Greg Taylor has been offering the team in recent weeks. That’s to be expected. But on the basis of tonight it’s clearer than ever that Taylor will be in place for the upcoming fixtures against Rangers and Real Madrid.

Haksabanovic only had a short period on the pitch, around 15 minutes, but he did look sharp and slick on the ball, playing some nice passes around the County defenders while surging into the final third. Supporters will definitely be keen to see more of him quickly.

In other news, Ange Postecoglou discusses Albian Ajeti’s Celtic exit in Dingwall radio interview.