It was only then that Liel Abada made the final scoreline 3-1. He did so courtesy of a sublime curling finish that followed him boring in on goal and exchanging passes with Jota. And it just had to be Jota. Fresh from his glorious strike in the Scottish champions’ opening weekend win over Aberdeen, his imprint was stamped all over what allowed Celtic to overcome a typically stubborn Highland host.
Much will be made of Mortiz Jenz, Celtic’s debutant centre-back, claiming the crucial goal to make it 2-1 six minutes from time – sailing through the air for a crashing header as if jet-propelled. But the German was able to cap a positive first showing because he could capitalise on Jota sweeping over a precision, hanging cross.
And, after Celtic struggled to turn their territorial domination into much in the way of clear openings across strangely disengaging first 45 minutes, it was Jota who turned the contest within three minutes of the restart. The 23-year-old Portuguese livewire’s dart into the box was truly box office. Genuinely wizard wing-play. The balance he displayed after he was played down the inside left channel by Callum McGregor was like that of a tightrope walker in a force ten gale as he rode a robust challenge. For his next trick, he then nutmegged a second marker before hitting the byline and cutting back for Kyogo Furuhashi to drill in from ten yards.
It seemed then that Celtic would stretch away from an opponent who were an immovable object but a non-existent presence in their visitors’ final third.
Until, that is, 10 minutes later, the sometime-flaw of Ange Postecoglou’s side reared up when hesitation seemed to reign supreme in the Celtic box as a corner from substitute Owura Edwards was swung over. County centre-back Alex Iacovitti rose above this in more ways than one, to send a downward header into the corner of a boxed-in Joe Hart’s net, despite the keeper getting a hand to it. Postecoglou delighted in his players’ response to this setback and even if Jenz did not strike until the 84th minute, there was always the sense that Celtic had the personnel to plunder the winner.
And that fact has everything to do with having such as wingers Jota and Abada, who can be relied upon for returns. Two games in and two players who half actions in more than 40 goals last season have now imputed to five goals, with the Israeli having to settle for two bench outings in the opening weeks of this cinch Premiership campaign. Their contributions are a cornerstone in Celtic now having racked up a 34-game unbeaten league sequence. That run was never threatened at Dingwall as it was a year ago. Postecoglou’s men may still have to hit their straps fully, but they are still setting a pace that will make them difficult to suppress in the long-term.
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