CELTIC 6 ROSS COUNTY 0
RAMPANT Celtic pulverised rocking County with a remarkable four-goal-in-nine-minute salvo as the champions hurtled back to the Premiership pinnacle at Parkhead this afternoon.
Neil Lennon’s men clamoured all over the Dingwall outfit in the first-half, but only had a fine goal from Mohamed Elyounoussi early in the encounter to show for their superiority.
But the Highlanders were hit by a hurricane at the beginning of the restart when Odsonne Edouard claimed a double and Callum McGregor and James Forrest added others to make it 5-0 in a breathtaking period that floored the visitors.
And Elyounoussi made it six as the eight-in-a-row champions wiped out the memory of the dismal display against Livingston a fortnight ago.
GOAL…Mohamed Elyounoussi opened the scoring and added another.
Celtic can now welcome Serie A outfit Lazio with some confidence for the Europa League Group E confrontation under the lights in the east end of Glasgow on Thursday.
It was an exhilarating show of firepower from the home side as they decimated the opposition.
Four minutes were on the clock when the Hoops took the lead and it was down to the adventurous outlook from right-back Jeremie Frimpong.
The Dutch teenager swept away from Michael Gardyne and the ball was eventually worked across by McGregor to Elyounoussi who snapped up the chance at the second attempt. His right-foot drive zipped past the diving Ross Laidlaw at his left-hand side.
The champions were working well on the flanks, utilising the pace of Frimpong on the right and Boli Bolingoli on the left. There was a lot of early slick play from Lennon’s side as they moved the ball around with the Dingwall players doing their best to close them down.
GOAL…another double for on-fire Frenchman Odsonne Edouard.
Edouard looked as though he was about to snap up his 10th Hoops goal of the season after a clever run, but a desperate block from Keith Watson denied the on-fire Frenchman.
The 21-year-old then displayed some of his dazzling skills on the edge of the box before just missing the target with a curling right-foot effort.
Next up, James Forrest attempted a swerving right-foot drive off the outside of his boot and Laidlaw got down well to tip the ball round the post as the champions racked up the corner-kicks.
In the 21st minute, Edouard – of all people! – missed an excellent opportunity smack in front of goal following a corner-kick, but missed the target.
It was an onslaught as Celtic stormed forward, but the Highlanders defended resolutely plus the home side weren’t ruthless enough in their finishing.
Edouard, Elyounoussi and Christopher Jullien all missed in quickfire fashion as they turned the screw.
County escaped again when Edouard and Elyounoussi combined in a counter-attack to set up McGregor who should have scored, but struck the post with his parting shot.
It was astonishing to witness such a one-sided encounter with the Hoops in command, but with only a solitary goal to show for their domination.
GOAL…Callum McGregor got on the scoresheet.
Two netbound efforts were also hacked off the line – with Richard Foster making a particularly good clearance – as the home side tired to double their advantage without success.
Half-time arrived with Elyounoussi’s early strike the only effort to separate the teams. Agatha Christie couldn’t have written a more intriguing mystery.
In the opening 45 minutes, Celtic had TWENTY-ONE shots at goal!
A blunder from Watson right at the start of the second-half presented an opportunity to Edouard who made no mistake as he went into double figures for Lennon’s men.
Two minutes later, McGregor waltzed through to slot the third beyond the stranded Laidlaw as the second-half started at whirlwind pace.
County were reeling in the 50th minute as Edouard made it 4-0 in a truly astounding sequence of events as the home fans celebrated big-style. The French ace knocked a cross goalwards that took a touch off Liam Fontaine, but there was no denying the goal was from the Hoops’ main man.
GOAL…James Forrest claimed his eighth strike of the season.
It was five in the 55th minute when Frimpong zoomed down the right with lightning acceleration and picked out Forrest with a pinpoint cross. The winger made no mistake to claim his eighth strike of the campaign.
In the 72nd minute, Elyounoussi flashed in a sixth goal as Celtic broke forward again at speed with Vakoun Issouf Bayo, on for Edouard, getting a touch to set up Bolingoli who, in turn, opened things up for the on-loan Norwegian international to hit another.
Nir Bitton then came on for McGregor and Marian Shved for Forrest as Lennon looked towards Thursday’s Europa League Group E game against Lazio.
Bayo blew the chance of a seventh goal after being sent through by Tom Rogic. The Ivorian took a heavy touch and allowed Laidlaw to race from his line to clear the danger.
All in all, a satisfying afternoon for the champions who roared back to show positive form with a killer touch after the interval.
And the Premiership table has a familiar look about it, too.
TEAM: Forster; Frimpong, Jullien, Ajer, Bolingoli; Brown, McGregor (sub: Bitton 73); Forrest (sub: Shved 75), Rogic, Elyounoussi; Edouard (sub: Bayo 65).