ANTHONY RALSTON found reserves of energy and courage to summon up a towering leap and a powerful header to claim Celtic’s winner in seven minutes of stoppage-time in Dingwall last night.
And the non-stop right-back was acclaimed by a joyous Ange Postecoglou as the smoke of battle cleared following a dramatic 2-1 triumph over Ross County in an encounter blighted by some truly awful refereeing by Alan Muir.
The match official compounded an error-strewn performance when he dismissed the unfortunate Carl Starfelt with 12 minutes to go after booking the Swede earlier following his legitimate complaint of being elbowed in the face by Jordan White.
YELLOW PERIL…Carl Starfelt, with blood streaming from his nose, is booked by referee Alan Muir.
SEEING RED…the Celtic defender is dismissed by the match official with 12 minutes still to go.
The Hoops defender pointed to the blood flowing from his nose as proof of contact, but the unsympathetic whistler would not be dissuaded from flashing a yellow card and repeating the feat when the player challenged Regan Charles-Cook a few minutes later. It was a foul, but nothing more than that, despite the theatrical dive from the winger.
With time ticking down – and Muir ignoring a penalty-kick claim after a Callum McGregor shot had been diverted off target by a defender’s elbow – the Parkhead men simply refused to accept anything other than a victory and Ralston – or “Raldo” as he is known to his manager – was there to bullet a delicate right-wing cross from Tom Rogic past the stranded Ashley Maynard-Brewer.
It was an incredible climax to a game where the Hoops did not quite excel with their passing game against dogged, robust opponents and Postecoglou said: “I’m pleased for the lads they got the rewards for a big shift.
LAST-GASP HERO…Anthony Ralston is high and mighty and he powers in the winner.
“They had to deal with a fair bit of adversity, but the way they conducted themselves at the end of the game, they kept their heads and kept trying to win the game of football with 10 men.
“It was super for Raldo to get the goal, but the whole team showed a real intent to be a team that doesn’t let anything in front of us stop us from what we want to achieve.
“That’s the test for us and the lads showed their composure.
“We wanted to win this game of football our way, they believe in what we’re doing, they want to be this kind of football team that plays like that right to the end irrespective of the circumstances.
“I’m super pleased they got their rewards.”
BHOY OH BHOY…Anthony Ralston races away in triumph with Cameron Carter-Vickers in pursuit.
Highlighting the display of never-say-die Ralston, the Greek-Australian gaffer, speaking to Celtic TV, continued: “He’s been enormous for us all year and he continues to be.
“He wasn’t even 100 per cent with his ankle, but he’s a warrior, he’s a soldier, he loves his football club and he wants to make a career for himself.
“It’s great for him that he got his rewards, but I think he’ll share it with the others on this occasion because they all were magnificent in difficult situations.”
NET PROFIT…Liel Abada fires in the opening goal in the 21st minute.
Liel Abada, playing through the middle in the absence of a list of crocked strikers, fired in the opening goal after a neatly-worked move by his team-mates that saw Liam Scales sweep over a pass from the left which the Israeli international winger tucked away with a fair degree of confidence and stealth.
The summer signing was also hailed by the manager who added: “He did a good job for us leading the line as it’s obviously not his role, but he scored a good goal.
“I was a bit annoyed at half-time because I thought we were a bit wasteful with our front-third possession, we had some great opportunities to get a second and third goal, but we were a bit wasteful.
“The football was still good leading up to there and we really had one striker on the pitch, so, for us, it was always going to be a night where we had to be fairly creative about how we scored our goals, and to give the players credit, they stuck at it.”