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Celtic leave it late as Alfredo Morelos scores on Rangers return

Substitute Liel Abada wrapped up victory for the Hoops in stoppage time when he curled home from 18 yards.

Kyogo Furuhashi of Celtic celebrates with Josip Juranovic and Joao Pedro Neves Filipe Jota.
Kyogo Furuhashi of Celtic celebrates with Josip Juranovic and Joao Pedro Neves Filipe Jota.
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

MORITZ JENZ headed a late debut goal as Celtic were again made to work hard in Dingwall as they beat Ross County 3-1.

Kyogo Furuhashi gave Celtic the lead in the 48th minute but Alex Iacovitti levelled with Ross County’s first effort on target 10 minutes later.

Malky Mackay’s side looked like they might frustrate their visitors but Jenz ran in to meet Jota’s inswinging cross and head into the roof of the net from six yards in the 84th minute.

Substitute Liel Abada wrapped up victory in stoppage time when he curled home from 18 yards.

On-loan Lorient defender Jenz had only been drafted in after Stephen Welsh dropped out through illness on Friday.

The 23-year-old German picked up a booking in a shaky moment in defence but looked assured on the ball and made himself an instant hero with the crucial moment of the game on a ground where Celtic needed an Anthony Ralston winner in the seventh minute of stoppage time last season.

David Turnbull replaced the injured Reo Hatate and the midfielder chipped just beyond the far post from a tight angle early on. Jota cut inside and had a shot deflected wide but Celtic initially struggled to break County down.

Their first real chance came just before the half-hour mark when Jota made towards the byline and crossed for Daizen Maeda but the Japanese forward sent a free header over the bar.

Celtic stepped up and Turnbull created another good chance with a reverse pass for Furuhashi, whose shot was parried by Ross Laidlaw before Matt O’Riley sent a first-time volley wide on the rebound.

O’Riley failed to make the most of two more quickfire chances before Laidlaw pulled off a good stop from Maeda’s flick.

County had only threatened from set-pieces in the first half with Ross Callachan and Iacovitti sending efforts over the bar.

Both sides made half-time changes with Owura Edwards on for County and Abada replacing Maeda.

Celtic found an extra gear and took the lead after Callum McGregor drove into the box and found Jota. The Portuguese winger skipped past a defender and cut back for Furuhashi to slot into the bottom corner.

O’Riley headed straight at Laidlaw from a good chance before County levelled.

Iacovitti got above his man to meet Edwards’ corner and headed down. Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart appeared to be unsighted by one of his defenders and the ball bounced into the net.

Jota sent a curling effort just wide before Hart pulled off an excellent flying save from Edwards’ free-kick after Jenz had brought down Jordy Hiwula.

County full-back Connor Randall injured himself in the process of fouling Jota as the hosts frustrated the champions and they had a dangerous set-piece themselves just before Celtic broke and won the corner that led to Jenz netting.

Celtic were in control in the closing stages and Jota claimed his third assist by laying the ball back for Abada to finish in style.

Elsewhere, Alfredo Morelos returned to action after a five-month absence to score the clinching goal in Rangers’ 2-0 cinch Premiership win over Kilmarnock at Ibrox.

The Light Blues lost 2-0 away to Union Saint-Gilloise in the first leg of their Champions League qualifier on Tuesday night and a laboured and goalless first half was not the response expected.

Antonio Colak, the Croatia striker signed from Greek side PAOK, lifted the Light Blue spirits when he fired in his first Gers goal in the 51st minute and there was more good news for the Gers faithful when Colombia striker Morelos, out since March due to a thigh injury, came off the bench after the hour mark before sealing the win in the 88th minute with a close-range finish.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side will try to rescue their Champions League hopes on Tuesday night but they will have to markedly improve – although the long-awaited return of the popular Morelos will offer hope.

Following the dismal display in midweek which seemed to take Van Bronckhorst aback, it was inevitable that there would be changes for the first home league game of the season.

Turkey left-back Ridvan Yilmaz made his first start and Steven Davis, Tom Lawrence and Scott Wright came in with Morelos on the bench.

Killie’s on-loan defender Lewis Mayo was unable to play against his parent club but Jeriel Dorsett, the 20-year-old defender who signed on loan from Reading on Friday, made his debut with Liam Donnelly and Fraser Murray also starting.

Killie soon found themselves under pressure and in the third minute keeper Sam Walker and defender Ash Taylor blocked a shot from Malik Tillman, who was the best player on show in the first half.

Taylor was then booked for a foul on Tillman at the edge of the box but Gers skipper James Tavernier curled the free-kick over the bar.

A deflected drive by Wright was palmed away by Walker and in the 26th minute Lawrence hit the bar with a speculative lobbed shot from distance.

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Walker saved a long-distance effort from Wright just before the break but it was a far from convincing first-half performance by Rangers.

Killie midfielder Rory McKenzie flicked a cross from Murray over the bar soon after the restart but then found themselves behind when Colak exchanged passes with Lawrence before drilling a low drive past the diving Walker.

The Ibrox crowd relaxed, but just a little.

There was another huge cheer in the 62nd minute when Van Bronckhorst brought on Morelos, along with Borna Barisic and Rabbi Matondo, for Yilmaz, Wright and Colak.

Rangers kept going with the fans willing Morelos to get on the scoresheet and he shot wide in the 69th minute from an angle before being thwarted in the box twice by tackles.

However, with two minutes remaining the Colombian was on hand to scoop the ball in the net from two yards after being set up by Matondo at the second attempt, and he once again heard familiar roars of approval from the Rangers fans.

Scottish Premiership results on Saturday:

 Aberdeen 4 (Miovski 24, 37-pen, Clarkson 45, De Barros Lopes 87) St Mirren 1 (Ayunga 53-pen)

Motherwell 1 (Carely 90+1-og) St Johnstone 2 (Murphy 28, May 90+4)

Rangers 2 (Colak 51, Morelos 88) Kilmarnock 0

Ross County 1 (Iacovitti 58) Celtic 3 (Furuhashi 48, Jenz 84, Abada 90+1)

Playing Sunday

Dundee Utd v Livingston, Hibernian v Hearts.

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