Celtic Park, Glasgow
March 29, 2014
De Leeuw 15
KRIS Commons’ 28th goal of the season wasn’t enough to give Celtic maximum reward in their first game since clinching three-in-a-row as they were held at home by Ross County.The attacker continued his sensational season by cancelling out Melvin de Leeuw’s opener for the visitors, stabbing home after Mark Brown had failed to gather Leigh Griffiths’ shot.
While a winner wasn’t forthcoming for the champions, it failed to put a dampener on a day of celebration, as the players embarked on a lap of honour following the final whistle, taking the acclaim of the crowd after their treble of titles.Eoghan O’Connell made his competitive Celtic debut, becoming the latest Celtic Youth Academy graduate to break into the top team this season.
The inclusion of the 18-year-old was one of two changes to the team who brushed Partick Thistle aside 5-1 on Wednesday night as the Hoops claimed their third successive league championship.Fellow teenager Liam Henderson was restored to the starting XI after scoring his first goal for the club at Firhill, with the injured Adam Matthews and Charlie Mulgrew dropping out…
Amidst a carnival atmosphere, the Bhoys made a bright start in Paradise, and Anthony Stokes was close to connecting with Emilio Izaguirre’s driven cross inside the first 60 seconds.The Irishman then had an effort blocked after Stefan Johansen’s delivery dropped invitingly for him, before Commons had a shot from distance deflected wide and Johansen was off target on the half-volley……
Football wasn’t the only focus for the home crowd, however, and they showed their support for Oscar Knox, with a standing ovation for the brave Belfast youngster in his courageous fight against serious illness.Derek Adams’ men had formed a guard of honour for the champions prior to kick off but they were in no mood to be a side-show in a day of celebration….
Playing with confidence following an encouraging run of results, they had shown plenty of early enterprise and Dutchman de Leeuw gave them surprise lead on the quarter-hour mark.Collecting former Celt Graham Carey’s pass inside the box, the forward took a touch before rifling a shot beyond Forster into the far corner.Stokes tested Mark Brown from a free-kick after Commons had been fouled 30 yards from goal as the hosts attempted to muster a quick response…….
But County threatened again at the other end as the dangerous de Leeuw acrobatically volleyed over from Carey’s corner .With the prolific Commons on the pitch, Celtic always have a potent goal-threat, though, and it was Scotland’s top scorer who levelled the match 11 minutes before the break.Johansen picked out Griffiths on the edge of the area, and when Brown couldn’t hold the striker’s well-struck effort, Commons was hand to finish the rebound….
The 30-year-old is also the Hoops’ main creative spark in the attacking third, and his pin-point pass presented Griffiths with an opportunity as half-time approached. The striker’s first touch took him away from Yann Songo’o but his goalbound effort was deflected over.
Neil Lennon’s men burst from the blocks after the interval, and Efe Ambrose saw a shot blocked within seconds after a rampaging run down the right.Henderson was then inches away from getting on the scoresheet again, heading against the post from Johansen’s lofted cross.
After Griffiths was fouled on the byline, Commons slid the resultant free-kick towards van Dijk but Yoann Arquin was out swiftly to block the Dutchman’s shot as the Hoops upped the tempo.Although the Hoops were dominating possession, they were being limited to few chances by the resolute Staggies. Midway through the half, Georgios Samaras was introduced for Commons in the search for a winner. It was the Greek striker’s 250th appearance for the club….
After a purposeful burst into the box, Henderson, showed terrific tenacity to collect the second ball and blast over from an acute angleAnother enterprising run from the young midfielder shortly after almost gave Scott Brown a sight of goal but he was crowded out before he could pull the trigger.
The home side had a lucky escape eight minutes from full time, however, as Carey rattled the outside of the post with a rasping shot from 30 yards.Celtic threw van Dijk forward as the clock ticked down to provide an additional aerial threat and the defender did bring out save from Brown, but the Bhoys had to settle for a share of the spoils on this occasion……
CELTIC (4-4-2) Forster; Ambrose, van Dijk, O’Connell (Kayal 73); Izaguirre; Henderson, Brown, Johansen, Commons (Samaras 67); Stokes, Griffiths (Pukki 79)
Not Used: Zaluska, Balde, Herron, Fraser
ROSS COUNTY (4-4-2) Brown; Cikos, Boyd, Songo’o, Oikonomou; Kiss, Brittain, Tidser (Saunders 87), Carey, De Leeuw (Slew 72) Arquin (Gordon 87)
Not Used: McCarthy, Quinn, Glen, McLean
Website Man of the Match: Virgil van Dijk