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The National (Scotland)
The National (Scotland)
Ryan McGinlay

Ross County 0 Celtic 3: Brendan Rodgers' rotated pack comfortable in Dingwall

Celtic comfortably defeated Ross County 3-0 to go eight points clear at the top of the Scottish Premiership.

Staggies manager Malky Mackay will have been hoping to keep it tight and bitty in the opening exchanges. However, this notion was blown out of the water when James Brown was shown a red card after a lengthy VAR check, following his reckless challenge on Yang Hyun-jun. The defender was originally shown a yellow card before the referee was instructed to go to his monitor to review the tackle.

Yang's countryman Oh Hyeon-gyu would have the ball in the net after a couple of half-chances, though technology would intervene once again to rule the goal out due to what it judged to be an early run by Daizen Maeda. TV pictures would later cast doubt on this call.

Celtic huffed and puffed but mad a breakthrough in first-half stoppage time when David Turnbull hit a stinging shot from just outside the box, leaving Ross Laidlaw with no chance in the Ross County goal. Now the home side's defence was breached, Celtic were on the hunt for more goals.

The second half was one-way sailing for the duration, thanks to the man advantage but Celtic were largely wasteful in front of goal, largely due to the spirited Laidlaw in between the sticks. The keeper had no chance with substitute Palma's stunning strike from range, with the goalscorer becoming the provider just a few minutes later as he found James Forrest in the box with a pinpoint cross.

Here are the key points from the match in the Highlands.

Unlucky Oh

Playing second fiddle must be difficult to both deal with and attempt to change. There are no two ways about it, Kyogo is the main man when it comes to leading the line for Celtic with his track record making it all the more difficult for another forward to displace him. Though both were involved in the winner against St Mirren in midweek, the South Korea international was the only one of the pair to start proceedings in Dingwall. Though he will have been brought in for his presence and goal-scoring ability, his passing is certainly an underrated part of his game. Unlike his predecessor Giorgos Giakoumakis, who was very limited with the ball at his feet, Oh can pick a pass and get his wingers and midfielders involved in the game with his link-up play. National team manager Jurgen Klinsmann will have been delighted to see his striker start this one, even more so when it looked like Oh took the lead following Maeda's delivery into the box. After a lengthy review, the goal was chalked off thanks to the latter's offside position, much to the disappointment of the imposing target man. The second half gave spectators a chance to observe both Oh and Kyogo on the same pitch at the same time, which made for interesting viewing. Playing against 10 men gave Rodgers the freedom and ability to experiment, with both looking to get on the scoresheet late on in the game.

Laidlaw wows

Ross Laidlaw has long been recognised as one of the Premiership's most consistent shot-stoppers but here he took his game to a new level here. He may have conceded three goals but if it hadn't been for a remarkable 13 saves things could have got very messy indeed for the home side. At 31 the former Hibs keeper has shown he's reached a sweet spot in his career and you wonder if it won't be long until bigger clubs start noticing the high level of performance and consistency he's showing.

Potent dose of Palma

Palma shone against Atletico Madrid, and it looked like the winger was getting into the mood for facing off against Diego Simeone's side with a brilliant second-half cameo. Perhaps annoyed at his bench place for this one, the winger wasted no time in making up for it with a stunning strike from range. He then turned provider a few minutes later, crossing the ball to an unmarked Forrest in the middle of the goal.  If he can keep this sort of form up, then he won't be on the bench for many more encounters. A tour de force from the Honduran winger.

Turnbull turnaround?

With a little over six months left on his deal, you could have been forgiven for thinking that Turnbull's Celtic career was winding down, after a mixed three and a half years at the club following his 2020 move from Motherwell. However, Scales may have an heir to his Celtic renaissance throne in the Scotland international, as he has now scored in consecutive games for the club. Certainly in the goalscoring habit, Turnbull followed up his sensational strike against St Mirren with another goal from outside of the box at Dingwall this afternoon. Always a tidy customer with the ball at his feet, Ross County failed to mark his movement in the middle of the park, which gave Celtic's number 14 a clear shot at goal, which he was only too happy to accept. Turnbull is taking the opportunity that his manager is giving him, especially given the injury-hit season that Reo Hatate is currently enduring. He has to get his contract situation sorted, for better or worse, as both player and club need to know where their relationship lies in terms of the medium to long-term future. Perhaps the midfielder may see that his future lies elsewhere, given his lack of consistent game-time when the likes of Hatate and O'Riley are fit and firing. Either way, he will have done his chances of a new deal or route back into the team no harm whatsoever.

Well-needed rotation

With European duties coming thick and fast for Celtic, today's team allowed Rodgers to give the side a bit of a mix-up ahead of the trip to Madrid to face Atletico on Tuesday evening. Any opportunity to rest the likes of Alistair Johnston and Kyogo has to be welcomed if you are in Rodgers' position. The players who are replacing those who usually start in proceedings have got to take these chances to impress, as they do not know when their next opportunity will arise. Game and squad management are going to be key over the next few weeks and months, with Celtic fighting on multiple fronts in the shape of the league and Europe. Rodgers has been critical of the schedule his team face but these are the cards that he has been dealt with. Quite a few eyebrows were raised when the team was announced given the multiple changes, but Celtic had more than enough in reserve to secure a result on the day, especially against the 10 men of Mackay's Ross County. Rodgers' usual suspects made appearances in the second half, but this rest would have been ideal for some of his more-utilised options in the squad.

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