Returning Kyogo helps Celtic edge closer to title following tense win at Ross County

Returning Kyogo helps Celtic edge closer to title following tense win at Ross County

CELTIC took a big step towards regaining the Scottish Premiership title after a tense 2-0 win at Ross County.

The Hoops were on top in the opening period and took the lead through Kyogo Furuhashi, making his first start in four months following a hamstring injury.

Both he and compatriot Daizen Maeda then missed chances to extend the visitors' lead before the break.

County regrouped after the interval and threatened to take a share of the spoils as they pushed forward, while a nervy Celtic missed a series of chances to put the game beyond doubt.

But with three minutes remaining, Jota secured the three points as he slid in at the far post to finish after Giorgos Giakoumakis' effort had come off the bar.

The result leaves Celtic six points ahead of second-placed Rangers with four games remaining.

'We've been good for a very long time'

With Rangers having cut the gap to three with their win over Motherwell on Saturday, the pressure was on the Hoops to restore their advantage.

It made for a nervy performance at times, particularly in the second half, and like last week's Scottish Cup defeat to Rangers, lacked some of their recent fluidity.

However, manager Ange Postecoglou said the victory over the fifth-placed Staggies wasn't a response to last week's Hampden defeat.

"We've never lost the momentum," the Australian told Sky Sports.

"We lost a cup semi-final in extra time but we've been very good for a very long time, that's why we sit where we sit.

"From my perspective it wasn't about a reaction from last week.

"We were disappointed but it didn't really affect anything in the league and what's important for us is that we continue our good form."

The result means Celtic have dropped just two points in the league since Christmas.

Kyogo has been absent for most of that time, only returning as a late substitute in Celtic's 7-0 win over St Johnstone two weeks ago.

Postecoglou said he was delighted with how the team had performed in the absence of their top scorer but was still glad to see him back in the starting line-up and among the goals.

"He's missed a big chunk of the season and he's a hell of a player," the manager told Sky Sports.

"We've done well without him but it's great to have him back.

"He's still not 100 per cent sharp, he probably would have had two or three today in his best form but it's a great effort for him to get a goal for his reward."

'Jota looked dangerous'

Postecoglou also praised winger Jota, who himself missed seven games midway through the season with a hamstring injury.

The Portuguese set up Kyogo's opener at Victoria Park before sealing the points with his eighth league goal of the season.

"He was good today, he's another player who had a great start to the season and got an injury," said Postecoglou.

"We've had a few of those players who've had their momentum interrupted and it's taken them a while to get back, it's only natural.

"But he's been working hard and today team-wise he was excellent, I thought he worked really hard and was a good link for us.

"More importantly, in that final third, every time he got it he looked dangerous."

Celtic are next in action next Sunday, May 1, when they host nearest rivals Rangers.

A win for the Hoops would leave them nine points ahead with three games left to play.