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Celtic back on track after Champions League woe

French forward Moussa Dembele marked his return from a two-month injury lay-off with a superb curling strike.

Celtic's Moussa Dembele celebrates scoring his side's second goal of the game.
Celtic's Moussa Dembele celebrates scoring his side's second goal of the game.
Image: PA Wire/PA Images

CELTIC SHOWED NO signs of a European hangover as they moved two points clear at the top of the Scottish Premiership with a 4-0 thrashing of Ross County on Saturday.

Australian international Tom Rogic, one of five changes from the 5-0 humbling by Paris Saint-Germain in their Champions League opener in midweek, fired Celtic into a 13th minute lead.

French forward Moussa Dembele then marked his return from a two-month injury lay-off with a superb curling strike to make it 2-0 just before the break.

James Forrest tapped in a third just seven minutes into the second half before adding his second in the 74th minute to extend Celtic’s unbeaten run to 55 domestic matches.

The victory, Celtic’s fifth from six games, sees the Scottish champions open a gap at the top of the table following Aberdeen’s 1-1 draw with Kilmarnock.

Hoops manager Brendan Rodgers thought it was the perfect response following their European disappointment.

“I think the players deserve a huge amount of credit,” Rodgers said.

“They were excellent in training and we tried something different today in terms of the shape of the team and I thought as the game went on we got better and better.”

Ross County manager Jim McIntyre cut a despondent figure after the game.

“We lost a couple of goals from distance which was very frustrating and we never kept the ball well enough,” McIntyre said.

“The bottom line is we won’t be judged for what we do against Celtic but I expect us to play better than that.”

- Arduous -

Celtic now head into the first Old Firm derby of the season next weekend five points ahead of rivals Rangers, who were held to a 2-2 draw by 10-man Partick Thistle on Friday.

Rogic made the most of his starting role in Rodgers’ experimental 3-1-4-2 formation as he grabbed an early opener.

The Australian midfielder collected a pass from James Forrest and, after working the ball on to his left foot, sent a curling strike past Aaron McCarey from the edge of the box.

Anthony Ralston, who had the arduous task of trying to contain Neymar in midweek, had a much quieter afternoon against County and came close to adding a second for Celtic when his strike from 25 yards cracked off the base of the post.

Dembele, showed Celtic what they had been missing with a superb strike to put the Hoops further in front.

He took a pass from Leigh Griffiths and used his fellow striker’s decoy run to shift the ball on to his right before sending a curling shot beyond McCarey and into the bottom corner.

Craig Curran came on in the second half and almost immediately claimed one back for County.

The sub used his pace to get behind the Celtic defence but his shot was blocked by the legs of Craig Gordon, who then scrambled to his feet to superbly tip over Davis Kellior-Dunn’s follow-up shot.

Celtic showed the visitors how to do it just over a minute later as a devastating counter-attack that ended with Rogic’s shot being parried by McCarey, and Forrest reacted quickest to prod the rebound home.

Forrest got his second with an incisive surge into the box, finishing the run with a powerful angled effort.

– © AFP 2017

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