Four Findings: Celtic 0-2 Ross County
Nearly a year after the 10 men of Celtic defeated Rangers to win last season’s Betfred Cup final, the Hoops were knocked out by Ross County in the round of 16 in this season’s tournament.
Vasilis Barkas returned to the starting XI, stepping in for Scott Bain, but the visitors opened the scoring from a Ross Stewart penalty in the 39th minute. Stuart Kettlewell’s side made it 2-0 when Alex Iacovitti scored from a heade six minutes from time.
Sunday’s loss for Celtic means that they will relinquish the League Cup trophy for the first time since Ross County won it in 2015/16, ending a span of four years of domination in the tournament.
Celtic will now head to Italy to face AC Milan in a Europa League clash at the historic San Siro stadium on Thursday, unfortunately a dead rubber for Neil Lennon’s side. The Hoops will return to Premiership action next weekend when they host St Johnstone.
Here are four findings from Celtic’s devastating defeat to Ross County.
Who has been good?
When you look at this Celtic team, they easily have the talent and ability to get themselves out of this mess. The problem is, there are very few players who have shown any glimpse of breaking this bad spell.
Diego Laxalt has been a good signing, Tom Rogic has had some good moments this season, and Mohamed Elyounoussi has scored some goals – but outside of that trio, it has been a stretch to find much else positive.
The four forwards seemed destined for success, yet the goals haven’t been applied when required. The midfield hasn’t been able to break down the compact opposition that they face in nearly every game in domestic competition. The defensive woes are the most frustrating, with a litany of errors continuing to cost Celtic.
Celtic haven’t managed to do much right in recent months. The signing of Shane Duffy seemed to be a great move, yet he’s rumoured to be heading out again in January after disappointing since his loan move from Brighton.
Also, the Hoops have frankly been awful in the final third. Even Odsonne Edouard has come back from injury and yet has been profligate with his opportunities.
Celtic must hit the reset button and look to get something positive out of the season.
Celtic’s defensive issues have only gotten worse as the season has progressed. Much of the blame has gone on Duffy, Vasilis Barkas and Scott Brown.
Nir Bitton has been one of the most reliable players that the Hoops have had in recent years, yet the Israeli international hasn’t been in his best form recently. Kristoffer Ajer has come back from injury and been very poor as well.
Whether it is the mediocre goalkeeping or the dreadful defending, Celtic need to find a way to fix things at the back as soon as possible.
Whether or not Neil Lennon is really to blame for this is another topic, but his time must be up now as Celtic manager. The Hoops have won just one of their last five matches, losing three and drawing another. That is completely unacceptable for a club of their stature.
They are a team struggling domestically and getting torn apart in the Europa League, yet the manager is still being given time and support from the board. Neil Lennon is Celtic through and through, but his latest stint as manager must come to an end soon before things get even worse.
Celtic must look to new blood to reenergise and help this ailing Hoops side revive their season. It isn’t just this campaign at stake with the potential for a 10th league title in a row; if they’re not careful, they could even face a fight just to get back into Europe. It is time for the board to step in and clean up this mess.