Celtic 2-0 Ross County: Match Report
Celtic move 16 points clear after beating Ross County 2-0
Celtic will head to Ibrox on Hogmanay 16 points clear of Rangers and unbeaten domestically this season following a 2-0 home win over Ross County.
While the Staggies put in a decent first-half showing, Hoops centre-back Erik Sviatchenko fired the home side ahead from distance in the 38th minute before midfielder Stuart Armstrong added a second in first-half added time.
Brendan Rodgers' side cruised through the second half to improve further impressive statistics.
With their 14th consecutive league win the seemingly unstoppable Parkhead side extended their unbeaten run in Scottish football to 23 matches at the halfway point of the league campaign
Aside from their healthy points advantage over second-placed Rangers, the league leaders have a game in hand over the Light Blues who drew 1-1 at St Johnstone and who will have to come up with something special to halt the Hoops.
As usual, Rodgers made changes.
Defender Jozo Simunovic and midfielders James Forrest and Ryan Christie came into the Celtic line-up which was shorn of Callum McGregor, suspended after being sent off against Hamilton in the last match, with Cristian Gamboa and Patrick Roberts dropping to the bench.
Midfielder Martin Woods and forward Alex Schalk returned for County who were feisty in the opening exchanges.
In the 23rd minute a well worked counter-attack saw Woods break clear after taking a clever pass from Schalk and slip in Liam Boyce but with only Parkhead goalkeeper Craig Gordon to beat the Northern Irishman fired low past the far post.
Three minutes later, however, Celtic passed up on an even better chance when winger Scott Sinclair headed a terrific cross from left-back Emilio Izaguirre past the post from right in front of goal.
The opening goal came out of the blue and from an unlikely source.
There seemed no imminent danger when Sviatchenko moved forward with the ball at his feet but the Denmark defender caught everyone by surprise, including County keeper Scott Fox, when he drilled a shot from 35 yards into the bottom corner of the net for his first goal of the season.
County could have felt peeved to be going in at the interval one goal behind but in the second added minute Armstrong, who scored with a fantastic strike in the 3-0 win over Accies, took a pass from right-back Mikael Lustig and turned County's Tim Chow at least twice before firing a left-footed shot from 16 yards past Fox.
That goal put the Parkhead side firmly in control and the second-half became a procession towards the Staggies' goal.
In the 59th minute striker Leigh Griffiths, who had shrugged off a tight calf problem, headed a Scott Brown cross over the crossbar from eight yards, to his frustration, before he was replaced by Moussa Dembele.
In the 75th minute, with the Hoops continuing their dominance, a penalty claim when County defender Marcus Fraser took Sinclair to the ground at the byline inside the penalty area went unheeded by referee Nick Walsh.
The final stages, in which the visitors became slightly more emboldened, saw Gordon make a fine save from a Woods drive and an Andrew Davies header, while Fox saved a Dembele drive.
However, Rodgers side finished with plenty left in the tank and will relish the prospect of facing their old foes in the final game of the year.