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Ross County vs Celtic. Scottish Premiership.

Global Energy StadiumAttendance6,690.

Ross County 0

    Celtic 2

    • J Neves Filipe (50th minute pen)
    • A Bernabei (95th minute)

    Ross County 0-2 Celtic: Scottish Premiership champions restore nine-point lead over Rangers

    Match report as Celtic win 2-0 at relegation-threatened Ross County; goals at the end of each half from Jota, after a controversial Video Assistant Referee-awarded penalty, and sub Alexandro Bernabei restore the Scottish Premiership champions' nine-point lead over Rangers; hosts stay 11th

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    Highlights of the Scottish Premiership match between Ross County and Celtic.

    Goals at the end of each half, including a controversial Video Assistant Referee (VAR)-awarded penalty, were enough to see Celtic win 2-0 at struggling Ross County to restore the Scottish Premiership champions' nine-point lead over Rangers.

    The visitors had been struggling to break down Malky Mackay's resilient side at the Global Energy Stadium, that is until captain Alex Iacovitti was deemed to have handled in the area when trying to clear a corner in first-half stoppage time.

    There were few appeals at the time, only for VAR Steven Kirkland to tell Willie Collum to go and look at the incident on the pitch-side monitor, with the on-field official wasting no time in pointing to the spot.

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    Jota gives Celtic the lead against Ross County after they were awarded a penalty for handball.

    Jota did the rest, driving the resulting penalty down the middle for his 10th goal of the season, the same as the Portugal forward managed in the whole of the previous campaign.

    And Celtic confirmed the win with a second deep into added time at the end of the match as substitute Alexandro Bernabei, on for injured left-back Greg Taylor, drove an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net.

    Carl Starfelt and Jordan White battle for possession
    Image: Carl Starfelt and Jordan White battle for possession

    As a result, Ange Postecoglou's team moved nine points clear of Rangers again at the top of the table ahead of their meeting at Celtic Park on Saturday - live on Sky Sports - while the hosts remain deep in trouble, just two points above bottom-of-the-table Dundee United.

    How Celtic stayed in control of Scottish Premiership title race

    Celtic arrived at the Global Energy Stadium knowing nothing less than a win would do to maintain their nine-point advantage over Rangers, who they host next Saturday lunch time, after their city rivals' 2-0 home win over Dundee United on Saturday.

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    Alexandro Bernabei's first goal for Celtic seals the win against Ross County and what a goal it was!

    However, the visitors did not have it their own way against stubborn opponents, being made to wait until the stroke of half-time before opening the scoring in controversial circumstances.

    Ross County boss Mackay was already walking down the tunnel for the break, only to have to return to the dugout after referee Collum agreed with his VAR that defender Iacovitti had handled a late corner when trying to head clear under pressure from Carl Starfelt.

    Team news

    Ross County made two alterations from the team that lost 2-1 at Livingston before the international break, with Dylan Smith, 16, and David Cancola coming in for Keith Watson and Josh Sims.

    Meanwhile, the champions made one change from their most recent outing, a 3-1 home win over Hibs on March 18, as the on-loan Japan midfielder Tomoki Iwata replaced injured compatriot Reo Hatate.

    Jota kept his cool to fire his team ahead, waking the lacklustre champions up in the process, with the visitors dominating the second period, albeit without being able to find the killer second goal.

    Kyogo somehow dragged a shot wide of the gaping goal with just Ross Laidlaw to beat after Daizen Maeda stole possession on the left touchline midway through the second half, with each Celtic miss keeping their hosts in the game as Joe Hart had to be alert to palm away George Harmon's far-post header.

    Jota tangles with George Harmon
    Image: Jota tangles with George Harmon

    However, as the match entered the fifth of eight minutes of stoppage time, Bernabei finally sealed the victory with a thumping finish to set up a huge Old Firm contest on Saturday at Celtic Park.

    Daizen Maeda and Connor Randall fight for the ball
    Image: Daizen Maeda and Connor Randall fight for the ball

    What the managers said...

    Ross County boss Malky Mackay:

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    Malky Mackay wasn't pleased with the decision by VAR to award Celtic a penalty just before half-time.

    "I've looked at the penalty about half-a-dozen times and I cannot believe that's where the bar is set with VAR right now," he said.

    "Two players go for the ball bravely with their heads.

    "Carter-Vickers and Alex Iacovitti both throw their heads at it and the ball goes between their heads and it hits Alex on the back of his arm.

    "It's ball to arm.

    "Someone is going to have to explain to me how you jump for a ball in the box and have your arms at your side. Physically, it can't happen.

    "I'm looking at where the bar is set in England and where it's set in Scotland and right now we're not where they are.

    "Clubs are paying for this. I look at standards (of decisions being made by VAR) right now and there are mistakes all over the place.

    "It's going to cost jobs, it's going to cost clubs promotion, relegation, Europe.

    "I was really disappointed with that, intervening like that."

    Mackay - who was "really proud" of his team's performance - had already started to make his way up the tunnel for his half-time team-talk before the penalty award.

    "The fourth official had told me we were now over time so I was standing at the back of the tunnel," he said.

    "I could see the referee start to debate and discuss and then come over to the monitor. I thought, 'surely not'.

    "I was surprised at how quickly he made the decision because you will see pundits debate it all week.

    "It's incredible that's where the VAR is set right now.

    "I spoke to him at half-time and he said it was the laws of the game and he has to give a penalty."

    Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou:

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    Ange Postecoglou felt his Celtic side were 'wasteful' during their win over Ross County.

    "We were wasteful in front of goal and that keeps them in the game," he said. "It's then edgier than it should be, but overall the lads handled it OK.

    "With the conditions the way they were, it wasn't going to be a free-flowing game, but aside from the football, there was steel and character in the group to get the job done."

    Postecoglou - who expects Greg Taylor to be fit to face Rangers on Saturday despite being forced off with a dead leg - praised Japanese midfielder Tomoki Iwata for his performance in his first start since joining in January.

    "He was great," said the manager. "He was the one who looked most sure-footed in terms of the pitch and the handling of the ball. He really helped us considering it was his first 90 minutes after three months."

    Jota: The team did really well at a tough place

    Celtic forward Jota speaking to Sky Sports:

    "We knew that every time we come here it is a tough match to play. They go deep and we just need to find the spaces. Today was another difficult one but the team did really well.

    "The goal definitely gave us some rest and then we had to go in at half-time to rethink what we did and go to the second half to be better.

    "We tried to control the game in the second half, they still got their sometimes but we delivered another goal and that is what counts."

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    Jota and Cameron Carter-Vickers reflect on Celtic's win over Ross County.

    Celtic defender Cameron Carter-Vickers speaking to Sky Sports:

    "I think they made it difficult for us. I don't think we had great control of the game and we weren't at our best.

    "Good thing about this group is that even when we aren't at our best we still find ways to score goals and win games.

    "I'm not too sure [why we couldn't control the game today]. Give credit to them, because they were well organised and work hard."

    'Shambles' - Boyd slams VAR inconsistency

    Sky Sports' Kris Boyd:

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    Kris Boyd has slammed the inconsistency of VAR decisions after Celtic were awarded a penalty against Ross County.

    "I am bemused. When you go back before the international break Andy Considine's against Kilmarnock - which is more clear than that - and you can't give a penalty there.

    "We were all for VAR coming in at the start but it's been an absolute shambles.

    "It's the inconsistency from the whole thing is why people are still speaking about it for the wrong reasons. You don't know what you are turning up to.

    "Some referees in the VAR truck will give it and some won't. That's why I'm glad I'm not a manager."

    Former Motherwell forward James McFadden on Sky Sports:

    "There might an argument about whether his arm is in an unnatural position in normal time but it is a penalty kick. You can't have you arms up when you're jumping to head the ball."

    What's next?

    Celtic's next Scottish Premiership match is at home to Rangers on April 8, live on Sky Sports. Kick-off 12.30pm.

    Live SPFL

    Ross County are away to St Johnstone on the same day, kick-off 3pm.

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