ANGE POSTECOGLOU witnessed his Celtic players dominate yet again with 75 per cent of possession against Ross County in Dingwall last night.
However, despite controlling large chunks of the encounter, the Hoops stars were once again walking the tightrope that could have seen one false step leading to a calamitous fall.
With the clock ticking down, two points were in danger of being carelessly thrown away in the Highlands – where Postecoglou’s predecessor Neil Lennon featured in an inexplicable 1-0 loss in his final game as manager in February – and the visitors were in the act of shooting themselves in the foot again.
OFF NIGHT…a stunned Carl Starfelt walks off the pitch after being red-carded while Ange Postecoglou offers his support.
Two bewildering decisions from ropey referee Alan Muir left Carl Starfelt with a bloodied nose and an early exit as the Parkhead men fought gallantly to get the victory they deserved.
In the 21st minute, Liel Abada had rounded off a fine move with an accomplished finish which Kyogo Furuhashi would have been proud to claim, but some lamentably sloppy defensive play led to a corner-kick for the home side and their 57th-minute equaliser from Jack Baldwin when the County defender took full advantage of a split-second moment’s hesitancy from Liam Scales.
Once again, Celtic had a mountain to climb and they had to do so with a man short from the 78th minute on after Starfelt’s harsh banishment.
PAIN GAME…Carl Starfelt sits on the deck with blood coming from his nose as referee Alan Muir shows the Swedish defender the yellow card.
The Swede, who picked up his first yellow card for saying something to the match official after receiving an elbow in the face from Jordan White which left him with blood flowing from his nose, will now realise that, on certain occasions, referees in this country rarely show compassion in such matters. Or common sense.
The rejuvenated Anthony Ralston powered in a header from a neat Tom Rogic cross from the right to cement the points in the seventh minute of stoppage-time.
A beaming Postecoglou said of his players: “I’m super proud of them, they got their rewards in the end.
“They had to put up with a lot of adversity, but they kept playing their football and got a deserved winning goal.
“I thought with 10 men we still tried to play and win the game of football, we didn’t just launch it long.
OOPS…County’s Jack Baldwin gets in ahead of Liam Scales to toe-poke the ball past Joe Hart for his side’s equaliser.
WHOOPS…Jack Baldwin and his Ross County team-mates celebrate as Josip Juranovic, Liam Scales, Nir Bitton and Joe Hart look shell-shocked.
“It was a great ball in and it was super for Anthony Ralston to get the winner.
“In terms of this group of players, who have been thrown together this last five months, winning like that will add to the belief they have in what we’re doing.
“It would have been easy to lose their composure when the chaos was happening, but they stayed calm and got their rewards for doing that.
“That just fuels them going down this road of being a certain kind of football team.”
PENALTY PLEA…Ange Postecoglou makes his point to the assistant referee as a spot-kick claim is ignored.
FANFARE…Anthony Ralston, Cameron Carter-Vickers and David Turnbull race away after the defender’s stoppage-time winner in Dingwall with the Hoops supporters displaying their delight.
The late strike sparked a mini-pitch invasion and Postecoglou, speaking to the Daily Record, summed up: “The fans have had a long drive up and it’s a long drive home.
“I hope they have calmed down and stay safe on the roads back.
“When you score a last second goal, not a last minute one, in front of them then you can imagine there’d be some over-exuberance there!
“It was great for them because they have had a long journey and there’s a real bond developing between the team and the fans.
“Nights like this help that, as well.”
Now it is on to Hampden for the Premier Sports League Cup Final meeting with Hibs on Sunday afternoon.
Hopefully, the conclusion from that showpiece occasion will also have a silver lining.