Anthony Ralston’s 97th-minute header secured Celtic a dramatic 2-1 win over Ross County at Victoria Park, denying Rangers a six-point lead in the Scottish Premiership.
Liel Abada’s fourth goal of the season put Ange Postecoglou’s side ahead in Dingwall, but Jack Baldwin’s second-half equalizer seemed to have secured a point for the hosts.
Celtic’s chances of staging a steal was made even more difficult when Carl Starfelt dragged Regan Charles-Cook back to receive a red card for a second yellow card (79), but Ralston went up to meet Tom Rogic’s cross with practically the final touch of the match to unleash wild scenes at the end of the away match.
The result means that Celtic in second place remain four points behind Rangers, who beat St Johnstone 2-0 on Wednesday, while Ross County remain in 11th place with 14 points, at the bottom of the table for goal difference.
Ross County: Maynard-Brewer (7), Clarke (6), Watson (7), Baldwin (8), Vokins (7), Harrison Paton (7), Tillson (6), Hungbo (6), Spittal (6), Charles- Cook (6), Callachan (6).
Subtitles: Domenico Samuele (6), Burroughs (6).
Celtic: Hart (6), Juranovic (7), Carter-Vickers (6), Starfelt (6), Scales (7), McGregor (7), Bitton (7), Ralston (8), Abada (7), Turnbull (7 ), Montgomery (6).
Subtitles: Rogic (6), Moffat (n / a).
Man of the match: Anthony Ralston.
How Celtic have achieved six consecutive victories
Ross County won their previous home league match against Celtic 1-0 in February of last season, ending a 10-game winless home run against the Hoops, and they got off to a positive start at Dingwall despite failing have tested Joe Hart.
Postecoglou’s team selection was devastated by injuries and the Celtic manager made three changes from the side that beat Motherwell at the weekend.
- Ross County made three changes from their weekend win over Dundee. Connor Randall got injured in that match and lost completely when Jake Vokins started in his place. David Cancola and Dom Samuel both took the bench as Blair Spittal and Jordan Tillson started.
- Celtic made three changes to the squad that began Sunday in a 1-0 win over Motherwell, with the return of Anthony Ralston, Adam Montgomery and Liam Scales. Tom Rogic and Greg Taylor were on the bench while James Forrest was not present.
Celtic had won each of their previous five league away games, scoring two or more goals each time, but it was only in the 11th minute that they struggled Ashley Maynard-Brewer when David Turnbull’s corner headed towards Nir Bitton takes it, but his shot was saved by the Ross County keeper.
The visitors had won nine of their previous 10 league games with Ross County, beating them 3-0 at Celtic Park earlier this season, and took the lead in the 21st minute after an overwhelming move.
Adam Montgomery swapped passes with Callum McGregor before Liam Scales was spotted on the left wing and his low cross was hit at home from close range by Abada.
Montgomery’s deep and tantalizing cross baffled Maynard-Brewer just to brush the wood as Celtic tried to turn the screw before half-time, with Scales also exploding from McGregor’s pull-back.
Ross County failed to register an attempt on Hart’s goal, and it was Celtic who threatened a second after the second half when Turnbull escaped Blair Spittal and tried to catch Maynard-Brewer with a bold chip that went adrift.
Dominic Samuel was called off the bench and nearly found a way to the goal when his shot was blocked by Ralston, but from Spittal’s resulting corner it was Baldwin to score the equalizer against the run of play.
Starfelt took a shot in the face in the 74th minute which threatened to end his night prematurely, but would come moments later when referee Alan Muir opposed a cynical shot on Charles-Cook as he approached goal, with the defender showing a second yellow card.
With Celtic down to 10 men, the onus was on Ross County to go on a quest to complete a famous turnaround, but it was the visitors who capitalized on more space to counter. After Cameron Carter-Vickers saw his header overturned by Maynard-Brewer, it looked like the hosts had done enough to secure a point.
But, in the 97th minute of added time, Ralston was unmarked at the far post to head home substitute Rogic’s cross to secure a crucial victory for Postecoglou’s men.
Analysis: Celtic resilience triggers a mini field invasion
Sky Sports Ben Grounds:
Ralston’s dramatic recovery time winner keeps the exhausted Hoops four points behind Rangers in the Premiership top flight. Postecoglou could reflect on Wednesday night events at Victoria Park next May.
The Celtic manager was missing six forwards, but he showed his confidence in impromptu striker Abada and was rewarded with a robust performance.
Ralston’s intervention from a couple of meters came just a minute after the assigned six joined, so it was no surprise that some of the away fans poured onto the pitch.
It remains to be seen how many – if any – Celtic injured players will be available for the Sports Cup final against Hibernian at Hampden Park on Sunday, but Postecoglou can draw confidence from what he is receiving from the rest of his squad, while second. – the bottom county will feel unfortunate for not holding up to the point.
Celtic’s well-documented injury problems led to a patched-up team sent off from Postecoglou.
Forwards Kyogo Furuhashi, Albian Ajeti, Giorgos Giakoumakis and Jota missed the weekend’s 1-0 win over Motherwell, where winger James Forrest was also injured. His replacement Mikey Johnston was also replaced and no one was on the team at Dingwall.
Postecoglou’s side was full of defenders and included Liam Scales – on his first start as a Premiership starter – and Adam Montgomery and it was Abada who led the line.
The Celtic manager will be concerned about the nature of Ross County’s equalizer, which comes in his only five minutes during the match, but the resilience and character displayed when there are 10 men left will fill him with great pride.
The next appointment for Celtic is in Hampden Park, where they will face Hibernian in the Scottish League Cup final; kick-off 15:00.
Meanwhile, Ross County will travel to Livingston in the Scottish Premiership on Saturday; kick-off 15:00.