CELTIC are within 90 minutes of claiming the Premiership crown after goals from Kyogo Furuhashi and Filipe Jota gave them the all-important victory at Dingwall this afternoon.

Ange Postecoglou’s side restored their six-point advantage and their 19-goal superiority over their nearest challengers following a hard-fought contest against eager opponents.

A win over Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s outfit at Parkhead a week today will propel the Hoops nine points ahead with only three games to play.

It would take the collapse of all time for the flag not to fly over the east end of Glasgow for the tenth time in 11 years. That sensational nosedive is not going to happen – not with Postecoglou around to make sure all of the hard work to get the team into this position is not thrown away.

WELCOME BACK…Kyogo Furuhashi leaps above the Ross County defenders to thump in the breakthrough goal.

Kyogo was making up for lost time in his first start of 2022 when he scored a goal, had another chalked off for offside and clipped the crossbar – all inside the first half-hour.

The Japanese frontman was all over the place as he added pace and threat to the frontline against the Highlanders who were struggling to keep him out of the danger areas.

The breakthrough goal arrived in the 12th minute after some slick interchanging among the Hoops players as Carl Starfelt picked out Callum McGregor in his usual midfield beat. The skipper worked a one-two with Matt O’Riley before spreading the ball wide to Jota on the right.

The Portuguese touchline ace took a couple of touches before looking up and whipping an inviting cross into the box.

And there was Kyogo arriving with perfect timing to take off and send an eight-yard header arrowing low past the despairing Ross Laidlaw to the keeper’s left.

HOOP HOOP HOORAY…Kyogo Furuhashi is congratulated by Reo Hatate and Matt O’Riley after claiming his first goal of 2022.

The team’s talisman celebrated his first goal of 2022 and his 17th of the campaign with his team-mates who were desperate to break the County barrier after setting the pace right from the off.

Kyogo had the ball in the net again in the 23rd minute when he raced onto a cute pass from O’Riley and slotted the ball wide of the advancing Laidlaw. However, his joy was short-lived on this occasion with the standside assistant swift to put up his flag. It was tight.

Six minutes later, the woodwork denied the pacy raider when Jota, who had switched wings with Daizen Maeda, curled over a cross from the left. Kyogo shaped to volley the ball, but didn’t quite get his connection on the button.

However, it was still good enough to flummox the stranded keeper before smacking off the face of the crossbar and bouncing to safety.

Celtic went in one goal to the good at the interval and that was a bit of a mystery. They had dominated proceedings and Joe Hart’s only moments of activity were dealing with passes from his colleagues.

NOT THIS TIME…Kyogo Furuhashi sees his close-range shot scrambled clear by Ross Laidlaw.

OOPS…Kyogo Furuhashi wonders about the one that got away.

Kyogo should have netted again in the 39th minute when Laidlaw fluffed a low shot from O’Riley straight into the tracks of the comeback hitman. It looked as though he had to score, but his close-range shot lacked accuracy and the keeper managed to divert his effort for a corner-kick.

And Laidlaw made a superb instinctive save just before the interval to foil Maeda when O’Riley and Jota combined on the right before the on-loan winger flighted the ball once more into the penalty area.

The industrious Japanese forward took the ball first time and it looked headed for the back of the rigging until the netminder threw up his hands and deflected it over the bar for another corner-kick.

The Highlanders were in their opponents’ faces as soon as the second-half kicked off and the Hoops were knocked out of their stride.

OUT OF LUCK…Daizen Maeda watches County keeper Ross Laidlaw push away his effort for a corner-kick.

Postecoglou decided the side needed freshened up and made a triple substitution in the 64th minute as he sent on Giorgos Giakoumakis, Liel Abada and Tom Rogic for Kyogo, Maeda and O’Riley.

David Turnbull also arrived on the scene 10 minutes later as a replacement for Hatate who had put in a superb shift.

In between the changes, Abada missed a great chance when he was left unmarked as a cross came over from Greg Taylor. The Israeli winger lacked poise at the crucial moment of impact and slashed a low shot wide of Laidlaw’s left-hand upright.

Three minutes from time, Jota claimed the goal that soothed the Hoops’ anxiety and edged them ever closer to that coveted title.

ON THE RUN…Filipe Jota tussles with County defender Connor Randall.

JOY BHOYS…Filipe Jota and Anthony Ralston celebrate the winger’s killer goal in Dingwall.

Abada made a clever run into the box towards the touchline to accept a right-wing throw-in from Ralston.

He reversed a pass to Giakoumakis who got in ahead of the defender to knock an effort goalwards. It zipped over the head of Laidlaw, cannoned off the bar, but on this occasion there was no reprieve for the hosts when Jota determinedly forced it home from close range.

It was a long time coming, but all good things are worth waiting for.

James Forrest came on for the Portuguese flyer as Celtic played out a superb victory on dangerous territory.

TEAM: Hart; Ralston, Carter-Vickers, Starfelt, Taylor; O’Riley (sub: Rogic 64), McGregor, Hatate (sub: Turnbull 74); Jota (sub: Forrest 89), Kyogo (sub: Giakoumakis 64), ¬†Maeda (sub: Abada 64).


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