Bobby Madden to referee Celtic v Aberdeen

Bobby Madden has been assigned to champions elect Celtic’s Scottish Premiership showdown with Aberdeen at Celtic Park on Sunday.

Bobby Madden in action
Quick return: Madden was at Celtic Park as recently as April 2 to oversee Celtic’s 3-1 win over Hearts (Picture from Sky Sports)

BOBBY Madden will take charge of Celtic’s Scottish Premiership encounter with Aberdeen this weekend.

The 37-year-old will be in the middle at Parkhead on Sunday as the champions elect look to mathematically wrap up another title against their nearest challengers (KO 12:30, live on Sky Sports 3).

Celtic – currently nine points clear of the second-placed Dons with three games left – had effectively clinched a fifth successive crown with last weekend’s 3-1 win at Hearts due to their vastly superior goal difference.

Madden will be assisted in Glasgow by Dougie Potter and Michael Banks, with Barry Cook operating as the fourth official.

It will be the Fifa whistler’s second experience of this fixture after taking charge of Celtic’s 2-1 win over Aberdeen at Celtic Park last season, which is remembered for Aleksandar Tonev receiving a seven-game ban for racially abusing Dons full-back Shay Logan.

Madden has brandished 122 yellow cards, sent off 11 players and awarded 10 penalties in 35 games in all competitions so far this season.

He will take charge of both Celtic and Aberdeen for the fifth time in the league this term and only encountered the Dons last weekend in their 4-1 win over Motherwell at Pittodrie.

The Steelmen have since appealed the red card shown to captain Keith Lasley while Madden also awarded the Dons an early penalty.

His biggest achievement to date came last year when receiving the honour of officiating his first major final in the League Cup at Hampden Park, and sent off Dundee United captain Sean Dillon in their 2-0 defeat by Celtic.

Meanwhile, Nick Walsh will handle his third Premiership game when Hearts host Ross County at Tynecastle on Saturday (KO 15:00 BST).

The 30-year-old, from Glasgow, dished out four yellows in on his top-flight debut when County beat Partick Thistle 1-0 on April 9.

A fortnight later, Walsh was also in the middle as Dundee won 2-1 at Partick, issuing just two cautions.

Alan Muir to referee Hearts v Celtic

Experienced referee Alan Muir will take charge of Celtic’s televised Scottish Premiership match with Hearts at Tynecastle in Saturday’s early kick-off.

Alan Muir - Aberdeen v Celtic (Sun 9th Nov 2014)
In the middle: Muir will take charge of his 12th Premiership match of the season in Gorgie this weekend (Picture from Sky Sports)

ALAN Muir will take charge of Celtic’s Scottish Premiership encounter with Hearts on Saturday.

The 40-year-old will be in the middle when the leaders visit the third-placed Jambos for the lunchtime kick-off at Tynecastle (12:30 BST, live on Sky Sports).

He will be assisted by Stuart Stevenson and Stephen Mitchell, while the fourth official is Andrew Dallas.

Muir has handled 32 games in all competitions so far this season – issuing 95 yellow cards, sending off five players and awarding seven penalties.

Alan Muir stats 2015-16 so far
Statistics: How Alan Muir’s season has panned out so far (Picture from Transfermarkt.com)

The Edinburgh whistler – who is a stock controller by trade – will oversee his third Celtic match of the campaign after their 1-0 away wins at Motherwell, in October, and Kilmarnock, as recently as March 19.

His first ever game involving the Hoops was a 1-1 draw at home to Falkirk in January 2010, in which he gave three yellow cards.

Overall, Muir has handled 20 Celtic matches – brandishing 60 bookings in total, five penalties (all to Celtic) and four red cards (two for Celtic).

He most notably took control of their 9-0 demolition of Aberdeen at Celtic Park in November 2010 when he awarded Celtic three penalties and sent off a player from each side.

Muir was also in the middle for the Hoops’ 6-0 victory over Kilmarnock at Rugby Park in April 2012, which sealed a first title in four years for the Glasgow giants in manager Neil Lennon’s second full season in charge.

The former Fifa official will take charge of his fifth Hearts game of 2015-16, a fourth in the league and makes a fourth trip to Tynecastle.

He has handled 16 matches involving the Jambos to date – dishing out 25 yellows and four reds to Hearts players, including Blazej Augustyn in their 2-0 win over Ross County in October.

Muir – who has been a referee since April 1992 – was first admitted to the Scottish FA list in June 1999 before being promoted to Category One status five years later.

He has been on the SPL list since the start of the 2008-09 campaign and was a Uefa Category One official between 2009 and 2011.

Muir has previously overseen one other match between Celtic and Hearts on the final day of the 2011-12 season, awarding the Hoops a penalty in their 5-0 win at Parkhead.

Alan Muir stood behind the goal
Unseen: Muir did not spot that Inverness defender Meekings had stopped Leigh Griffiths’ header on the line with his arm (Picture from Sky Sports)

He will be remembered by Celtic fans as the man behind the goal who failed to spot a Josh Meekings handball in their controversial Scottish Cup semi-final defeat by Inverness at Hampden Park last season.

Muir also fulfilled the same role for Celtic’s Scottish Cup exit to Old Firm rivals Rangers at the same stage on penalties earlier this month.

His most memorable moment of his 24-year officiating career was as an additional assistant for the 2011 Champions League quarter-final between Barcelona and Shakhtar Donetsk at the Nou Camp.

Ronny Deila’s champions-elect Celtic are four points away from securing a fifth successive title with four games remaining as they chase their third win over Hearts this season in league and cup.

The Jambos are eight points behind second-placed Aberdeen but have failed to score in their last two games, including last weekend’s 1-o defeat at Motherwell after which head coach Robbie Neilson apologised for his team’s display.

Referee Bobby Madden set for Celtic v Hearts

Bobby Madden will take charge of leaders Celtic’s Scottish Premiership encounter with third-placed Hearts in Saturday’s televised lunchtime kick-off.

Referee Bobby Madden issues a yellow card
Acquaintances: It will be the 11th occasion that Madden handles a league game involving either Celtic or Hearts this season (Picture from Sky Sports)

BOBBY Madden has been confirmed as the referee for Celtic’s televised Scottish Premiership encounter with Hearts on Saturday.

The 37-year-old will oversee the first top-flight game since the international break when the leaders host the third-placed side in the lunchtime kick-off (12:30 BST, live on Sky Sports).

He will be assisted by Graham Chambers and Graeme Leslie, while Nick Walsh is the fourth official at Celtic Park.

Lanarkshire-based Madden will take charge of his fourth Celtic game of the season and his seventh involving Hearts.

He was in the middle for the champions’ goalless draw with Kilmarnock in November and 2-1 defeat by Motherwell in December – both at home – as well as their 4-1 win at bottom-club Dundee United in January.

Meanwhile, Madden has handled Hearts’ 2-1 win at Ross County in August, 3-1 defeat by Aberdeen in September, 2-0 win over Hamilton in November, 3-2 win over Dundee United in December, goalless draw at Hamilton in January and 1-0 victory over Partick Thistle on March 5.

Overall, he has overseen 31 games in all competitions so far this season – issuing 107 yellow cards, sent off nine players and awarded nine penalties.

Bobby Madden's record in 2015-16 to date
Record: How Bobby Madden’s season has fared to date, with eight of his games being shown live on TV (Picture from Transfermarkt.com)

It will be the first time Madden will take charge of a fixture between the two sides who have enjoyed a long-running Scottish football feud in what is always an eagerly-awaited fixture on the calendar.

The previous three encounters this term – two draws in the league and Celtic’s League Cup win at Tynecastle in October – were officiated by fellow Fifa officials Steven McLean, John Beaton and Kevin Clancy.

Madden’s most recent appointment was in the top-flight in the Highland derby a fortnight ago as he handed out four bookings in Inverness’s 3-0 win over Ross County in Dingwall.

Last month, the East Kilbride-born official was named as an additional assistant referee as part of Willie Collum’s team of officials for the Euro 2016 tournament in France in the summer.

Bobby Madden looks on
Seeing red: Madden dismissed Hearts defender Igor Rossi in the stalemate at New Douglas Park on January 24 (Picture from Sky Sports)

It’s been a busy campaign for Madden, who has received 18 Premiership matches and is in contention for a third domestic cup semi-final of his career in the Scottish Cup in April.

His season highlights include five Europa League matches, a Euro 2016 qualifier between Russia and Liechtenstein, and the Petrofac Training Cup semi-final between Rangers and St Mirren at Ibrox.

His biggest achievement to date came a year ago when receiving the honour of officiating his first major final in the League Cup at Hampden Park and sent off Dundee United captain Sean Dillon in their 2-0 defeat by Celtic.

Bobby Madden is the man in the middle
On the continent: Madden has been on the Fifa list of international referees since 2010 (Picture from BBC Scotland)

Madden has also handled Premiership play-off final first leg ties in each of the last two seasons.

Domestically, he was promoted to Category One in 2009 and has built up a wealth of experience and respect to become a Scottish top-flight regular since his first match in January 2011.

Madden first took up the whistle in 2002 and last year revealed that an advert in the East Kilbride News – spotted by his brother Jamie – inspired him to become involved in refereeing after realising he wouldn’t make the grade as a professional player.

Hearts would move to within six points of second-placed Aberdeen if head coach Robbie Neilson can mastermind a first win over the Hoops since the Jambos won 2-1 in April 2012 at Hampden Park in the Scottish Cup semis.

Ronny Deila’s Celtic – closing in on a fifth successive title – could go seven points clear at the top with a third straight league win before the Dons host Hamilton on Sunday.

Kevin Clancy before the 2016 Scottish League Cup Final
Man in charge: Clancy oversaw last month’s League Cup Final between Hibernian and Ross County (Picture from BBC Scotland)

That game at Pittodrie will be officiated by Kevin Clancy, who will also be in the middle for Celtic’s match at Dundee next Tuesday night – both will be screened live on BT Sport.

Meanwhile, Don Robertson will handle Partick Thistle’s home game with Kilmarnock as eighth welcomes 11th to Firhill on Saturday (KO 15:00 BST).

Elsewhere, Euro 2016-bound Collum will oversee a Premiership game for the third successive round of fixtures after missing three weekends to be taken out of the spotlight following a series of controversial decisions.

He will be in the middle for St Johnstone against Dundee United on Saturday and then Hearts’ trip to Inverness on Tuesday night.

Ross County beat 10-man Celtic to reach League Cup Final

Ross County set up their first Scottish League Cup final against Hibernian on March 13 after knocking out 10-man holders Celtic in an enthralling semi-final at Hampden Park.

  •  Ross County reach second major final and first in League Cup 
  •  Efe Ambrose sent off early on for the holders
  •  County’s first win over the Hoops since March 2013
  •  Celtic lose first League Cup game in three years
Jubilant: County celebrate Alex Schalk's second goal for the club (Picture from BBC Scotland)
Jubilant: County celebrate Alex Schalk’s second goal for the club which gave them clear daylight in the second half (Picture from BBC Scotland)

ROSS County reached their first ever Scottish League Cup final as 10-man Celtic’s domestic treble hopes were dashed for a second successive season at a rain-soaked Hampden Park. 

Gary Mackay-Steven looked to have set the holders on the way inside 27 seconds by stroking into an empty net but Martin Woods replied from the spot after Efe Ambrose saw red on 13 minutes for bringing down Alex Schalk as the last man.

Paul Quinn headed home early in the second half on his second County debut before Schalk fired home an unstoppable shot from the edge of the box to make it 3-1.

Leigh Griffiths saw a fiercely-struck penalty and another deflected low effort kept out superbly by Staggies keeper Scott Fox during a tense finale.

But County deservedly prevailed to set up a final appearance against Championship side Hibs – who beat St Johnstone 2-1 in Saturday’s semi at Tynecastle – on March 13.

Jackson Irvine in action
Instrumental: The Australian – who played with a broken nose – was among the number of ex-Celtic players who inspired County to victory (Picture from BBC Scotland)

It represents a magnificent achievement for Jim McIntyre’s men, who were bottom of the top-flight a year ago and only stepped up from the Highland League in 1994.

The Dingwall side can now look ahead to only their second major final after replicating their epic Scottish Cup semi-final victory over Celtic in 2010 as a First Division side, before losing to Dundee United in the showpiece.

The Premiership leaders were in sparkling form heading into Ronny Deila’s 100th game in charge but – after another catastrophic semi-final loss – must now focus on sealing a fifth successive league title and progressing in the Scottish Cup.

The post-mortem continued in the Hampden dressing room for over half-an-hour after the final whistle – and the Hoops will need a quick response with a trip to second-placed Aberdeen on Wednesday night.

Mackay-Steven finishes
Scoring groove: Mackay-Steven’s three goals this term have now come in two games after his St Johnstone brace (Picture from BBC Scotland)

The Staggies – fourth in the Premiership – must have feared the worst when the Hoops made the best possible start as Griffiths raced on to Calum McGregor’s poked pass and squared unselfishly for Mackay-Steven to sweep home straight from the kick-off.

Celtic, bidding to reach their 31st League Cup final, could have been out of sight in the opening exchanges had Ambrose managed to convert two set-piece opportunities.

The centre-back’s first header was scrambled off the goalline by Richard Foster before he steered another Stuart Armstrong corner off target when well placed from six yards.

But the tie turned dramatically when the Nigerian international was ordered off by referee Craig Thomson for cutting across the knee of Schalk – who would have been clean through from Jackson Irvine’s pass which was flicked on by Woods.

Efe Ambrose fouls Alex Schalk for Ross County penalty
Foul: Ambrose made slight contact with Schalk’s knee which knocked the Dutch U21 forward off balance (Picture from BBC Scotland)
Red card: Ambrose was also dismissed against Hearts in September (Picture from BBC Scotland)
Red card: Ambrose was also dismissed in a goalless draw against Hearts in September (Picture from BBC Scotland)

The County midfielder had to wait for McGregor to be sacrificed, for Danish defender Erik Sviatchenko to make his debut, before sending Craig Gordon the wrong way from the spot for his first goal of the season.

Celtic slowly reasserted their superiority as Armstrong curled narrowly over from 18 yards after County appealed in vain for an offside flag.

Seeking to cash in on their numerical advantage, the Staggies made a tactical change with Jonathan Franks replacing Stewart Murdoch just before the half-hour mark.

It came as County gained a foothold with Gordon parrying behind a fizzing 25-yard effort from man of the match Woods but Celtic ended the first half strongly as stand-in skipper Mikael Lustig’s header was repelled by a stretching Fox.

McIntyre’s team, however, completed a stunning turnaround just three minutes into the second half from a set-piece routine executed to absolute perfection.

Woods’ curling corner was nodded back across by captain Andrew Davies for fellow centre-back Quinn to nod home from close range.

Paul Quinn heads home for Ross County
Impact: Quinn scored Aberdeen’s winner in their 2-1 victory over Celtic in September and made his second Staggies debut after re-joining from Pittodrie (Picture from BBC Scotland)

Celtic keeper Gordon was booked in the aftermath for complaints about what he described as a “rugby tackle” by Schalk in the build-up – and replays suggested he had reason to be aggrieved.

Amid the driving Glasgow rain, Celtic’s 10 men offered a meek response and found themselves further adrift just after the hour mark.

Woods was again heavily involved with a driving run and incisive pass for Dutchman Schalk, who took one touch to control before rifling into the roof of the net to spark wild celebrations in the County end.

It prompted some Celtic fans to head for an early exit but – despite the introduction of captain Scott Brown after two months out injured – a stirring comeback was not forthcoming.

Scott Brown on for Bitton
Return: The Celtic skipper made his first appearance since picking up a knee injury against Kilmarnock on November 21 (Picture from BBC Scotland)

The Hoops had a golden opportunity to reduce the arrears yet Griffiths could not add to his 27 goals this season as Fox pulled off a crucial save from the spot after County substitute Brian Graham was harshly adjudged to have handled in the box.

Fox also had to react well to shovel another Griffiths effort over the crossbar, which had taken a slight deflection off the boot of Davies.

At the other end, Irvine almost made it more convincing for County when his well-struck volley was beaten away by Gordon from Michael Gardyne’s cross.

The Staggies defended their two-goal cushion resolutely to close out a famous win in their first-ever League Cup semi-final.

For 15-time winners Celtic, it was another sobering experience at the national stadium where their defensive vulnerability was magnified – and Deila’s future will again be on the agenda as the latest dream of a third clean sweep in their history was popped.

Celtic's semi-final slip-ups


TEAMS:

Ross County XI (v Celtic)
Three changes: Paul Quinn, Stewart Murdoch and Martin Woods replaced Scott Boyd, Jonathan Franks and Brian Graham from last weekend’s 2-1 win at Motherwell (Picture from BBC Scotland)

Substitutes:  Franks (on for Murdoch 28′), Graham (on for Schalk 71′) and Boyce (on for Gardyne 83′).

Not used:  Woods (GK), Boyd, Reckord, De Vita.

Booked:  Murdoch (17′), Fraser (44′), McShane (68′), Woods (80′), Quinn (90+4′)

Goals:  Woods (15′ pen), Quinn (48′), Schalk (63′)

 

One alteration: Fit-again Dedryck Boyata replaced the injured Jozo Simunovic from the 3-1 win over St Johnstone (Picture from BBC Scotland)
One alteration: Fit-again Dedryck Boyata replaced the injured Jozo Simunovic from the 3-1 win over St Johnstone (Picture from BBC Scotland)

Substitutes:  Sviatchenko (on for McGregor 14′), Brown (on for Bitton 67′) and Forrest (on for Armstrong 79′).

Not used:  Bailly (GK), Izaguirre, Nesbitt, Ciftci.

Booked:  Gordon (49′), Lustig (58′), Johansen (90+3′)

Sent-off:  Ambrose (13′)

Goals:  Mackay-Steven (1′)

Missed penalty:  Griffiths (77′)


MATCH OFFICIALS:

Craig Thomson referee
Man in the middle: Thomson used his experience as well as his cards to control a frenetic contest but also made some divisive decisions (Picture from BBC Scotland)

Referee:  Craig Thomson (Scotland) – 7/10
Assistants:  Joseph Lawson and Gary Hilland
Fourth Official:  Greg Aitken

Attendance:  22,130


MANAGER REACTION:

Jim McIntyre post-match (v Celtic)
Change in fortune: County have lost both league encounters with Premiership champions Celtic this season (Picture from BBC Scotland)

“It’s a fantastic achievement for the club and I am really pleased for the chairman as he has done so much for the club down the years. We were determined to give him a second trip to a national final. We thought the way it started it was going to be a long afternoon for us.

“We set up to be stiff and that was anything but stiff. We had to hang in and it was a matter of bottle. We had a bit of luck and getting the penalty got us back into it. But Celtic are a great team and Scott Fox made some incredible saves. It should be a great day in the final.”

Ronny Deila pre-match
Missed chance: The Norwegian was seeking to retain the League Cup in his second season in charge (Picture from BBC Scotland)

“We had everything in our hands but the red card changed everything. 80 minutes with 10 men makes it hard for us. I haven’t talked to Efe about it [the red card] but he’s very disappointed. That’s how football is.

“In the end it’s my responsibility and I’m very disappointed today. All the players are too but what’s done is done. In three days we go into a very important game and we have to look forward to that.”

Hearts snatch dramatic point against champions Celtic

Osman Sow struck a stunning late leveller to salvage a point for Hearts against champions Celtic in a pulsating clash at Tynecastle.

  •  Celtic denied eight consecutive Tynecastle wins for first time in history
  •  Hearts without a league victory since November 7
  •  Stunning Sow strike salvages point in 90th minute 
  •  10 points separate sides in first and third
Hearts celebrate Sow equaliser
Celebrations: Hearts players gather around Sow after the striker’s fifth goal in eight games pegged back Celtic (Picture from Sky Sports)

HEARTS twice came from behind to claim a Scottish Premiership point against champions Celtic in a late Christmas cracker in the capital. 

Nir Bitton slotted the Hoops ahead for the second week running before Sam Nicholson fired an equaliser in first-half stoppage time.

Tom Rogic restored Celtic’s lead after the break with a curling shot but Osman Sow ensured the points were shared with a spectacular strike amid more injury time drama.

It denied the Hoops – who move a point above second-placed Aberdeen with a game in hand – an eighth successive win at Tynecastle on boss Ronny Deila’s first league visit to Gorgie.

Celtic’s failure to win for the sixth time in nine games will raise more questions of Deila, who was pleased with a performance which he described as being “more like his team”.

His opposite number Robbie Neilson, however, was left frustrated by a fourth draw in a five-game winless run for his side as they sit nine points behind the Dons, who drew 2-2 with Inverness on Boxing Day.

Leigh Griffiths and Scott Brown watch on (v Hearts - 27th Dec 2015)
Missing men: Celtic’s top scorer Leigh Griffiths (left) and captain Scott Brown watched from the stands at Tynecastle (Picture from Sky Sports)

Both teams were without their leading scorers this season as Gavin Reilly made his first Hearts start since September in place of the suspended Juanma – who was sent off in the goalless draw at St Johnstone last weekend.

As 18-goal Leigh Griffiths missed a fourth successive Celtic game with a calf problem, Nadir Ciftci led the line again and was denied by Hearts keeper Neil Alexander when played in by Rogic as Celtic silenced the sell-out crowd with a dominant start.

It was all going according to plan for the Hoops – seeking to bounce back from a surprise first domestic home defeat of the season by Motherwell – until the injured Stuart Armstrong was replaced by James Forrest on 20 minutes.

Armstrong off Forrest on (v Hearts - 27th December 2015)
Early change: Armstrong’s recall to the line-up didn’t last long before being withdrawn after a collision with Buaben (Picture from Sky Sports)

Hearts had previously offered little to encourage fans but came alive as Reilly began to cause Dedryck Boyata problems – before the Celtic defender pulled his hamstring and gave way for a first outing in seven games for Efe Ambrose.

The Jambos’ marked improvement almost told on the scoreline when Prince Buaben’s prodded effort from Arnaud Djoum’s low centre was clawed out on the goalline by Craig Gordon.

The former Hearts keeper was also extended by Reilly’s daisycutter after the ex-Queen of the South forward got free of Ambrose.

The hosts were dealt a sucker punch, though, when Bitton slotted his seventh goal of the season past Alexander three minutes before the break from Callum McGregor’s inch-perfect pass after a lack of defensive discipline from Igor Rossi.

But their response was instant as, in the second minute of stoppage time, Bhoys skipper Mikael Lustig inadvertently diverted Buaben’s cross onto the foot of Nicholson and the ball flew into the corner of the net.

Sam Nicholson 46 mins goal 1-1 (v Celtic - 27th Dec 2015)
Helping hand: The midfielder’s fourth goal of the season was unconventional but came at a key time in the game (Picture from Sky Sports)

Celtic almost regained their lead within 20 seconds of the restart when Ciftci robbed Blazej Augustyn near the byline and saw his low right-footer parried by an unsighted Alexander.

As proceedings turned scrappy, Hearts relentlessly pressed the vulnerable Hoops backline and had a penalty claim rejected by referee Steven McLean when a furious Augustyn felt he was pushed in the back by Ciftci.

Deila’s men turned up the heat as Stefan Johansen failed to connect cleanly with Lustig’s centre before Forrest dragged wide when cutting inside of Hearts’ stand-in captain Morgaro Gomis.

And the excellent Rogic – who scored Celtic’s League Cup winner at Tynecastle in October – looked to have repeated that feat when curling home Bitton’s pass from the edge of the box with 20 minutes remaining.

The temperature increased a notch and sparks began to fly as Ciftci was perhaps fortunate to only be booked for leaving a flailing arm on Augustyn.

Neilson
Winless: The wait goes on for a Hearts win over Celtic which stretches back to April 2012 (Picture from Sky Sports)

Neilson threw on Dario Zanatta and Billy King from the bench for the closing stages to support Sow in attack, with Hearts pushing for an equaliser.

And – as the game drifted into four minutes of additional time – they found the decisive moment from their first second-half shot on target in stunning style.

After Forrest needlessly conceded a free-kick, Buaben laid it back to Sow and the striker sent a swerving 30-yard effort into the top corner via a slight deflection off Gary Mackay-Steven.

Despite their boss asking for calm heads on the touchline, there was still time for Hearts to pursue more glory but they will be content with taking a second league point from Celtic this term after the goalless draw at Celtic Park in September.

Although the late goal was unavoidable, the champions will rue the inability to see out what would have been a sixth successive away victory as the pressure will undoubtedly intensify on Deila ahead of Dundee on Wednesday night.

Deila in seat
Record: Deila has won at Tynecastle in both the League Cup and Scottish Cup but now failed to win either league encounters with the Jambos (Picture from Sky Sports)

 

TEAMS:

Hearts XI

Substitutes:  Pallardo (on for Djoum 62′), King (on for Reilly 80′) and Zanatta (on for Gomis 87′)

Not used:  Hamilton (GK), Ozturk, McGhee, Swanson.

Booked:  Augustyn (64′)

Goals:  Nicholson (45+2′), Sow (90+1′)

 

Celtic XI

Substitutes:  Forrest (on for Armstrong 20′), Ambrose (on for Boyata 33′) and Mackay-Steven (on for Rogic 78′)

Not used:  Bailly (GK), Izaguirre, Allan, Cole.

Booked:  Johansen (28′), Ambrose (51′), Ciftci (79′)

Goals:  Bitton (42′), Rogic (70′)

 

Steven McLean referee
Steady: McLean – who took charge of his third Celtic game of the season – had a solid game without any major decisions to make (Picture from Sky Sports)

Referee:  Steven McLean (Scotland) – 7/10
Attendance:  16,844

Willie Collum to take charge of Celtic v Aberdeen

Willie Collum to handle Celtic v Aberdeen at Parkhead on Saturday while John Beaton is set for Rangers’ trip to Hibernian on Sunday.

Willie Collum speaks to James Tavernier (Hibs v Rangers - 25th July 2015)
Pressure: Uefa Elite Category official Collum is no stranger to handling high-profile games and dealing with difficult situations (Picture from BBC ALBA)

WILLIE Collum will be the referee when the Scottish Premiership’s top two meet for the second time this season at Celtic Park this weekend. 

The 36-year-old from Lanarkshire will be the man in charge as champions Celtic seek to go seven points clear of second-placed Aberdeen at the top of the table in Saturday’s lunchtime game (KO 12:30pm, live on Sky Sports).

He will be assisted by linesmen Frank Connor and Dougie Potter in Glasgow while the fourth official is Barry Cook.

The only two occasions Collum has handled this particular fixture have been in the Scottish Cup but surprisingly it will be the first time he will oversee a league encounter between the Hoops and the Dons.

Collum dished out six yellow cards in Aberdeen’s 2-1 Scottish Cup win in 2014 at Parkhead and sent off Dons defender Andy Considine and awarded Celtic two penalties in their 4-0 semi-final victory at Hampden Park in 2010.

Five of the last 10 meetings between the sides have been refereed by Craig Thomson, including this season’s reverse encounter at Pittodrie which the Dons won 2-1 in September when he was criticised by some for failing to send off Considine for conceding a penalty.

Both of Collum’s Celtic games came in August in which he was widely scrutinised for failing to send off Craig Gordon on the opening weekend against Ross County before officiating their 3-1 win over Dundee United at Tannadice.

It will be the second time the Religious Education teacher from Belshill will be in the middle for a Dons match this term after their 2-1 win over Motherwell at Fir Park in mid-August.

Willie Collum referee
Next assignment: Collum will also be in charge of the League Cup quarter-final between Hibs and Dundee United next Wednesday (Picture from Sky Sports)

Overall, the Glasgow-born whistler has brandished 66 yellow cards, sent off five players and awarded eight penalties in 17 games in all competitions this season.

Collum officiated a Premiership game in eight of the first nine rounds of fixtures but has only overseen two in the last month.

The notoriously card-happy Collum – a father of three born in Glasgow – oversaw the biggest match of his 15-year career to date in August when handed the prestigious Uefa Super Cup in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi.

He came under fire in September for controversially dismissing Hearts’ Callum Paterson in their 3-2 Premiership defeat at Hamilton – a red card that was later rescinded following claims by Jambos head coach Robbie Neilson that he expected one of his players to be sent off when he saw who the officials were.


John Beaton in action (Partick Thistle v Celtic - 9th August 2015)
Big games: Beaton has refereed a Glasgow derby, Dundee derby and Inverness v Aberdeen in the Scottish Premiership so far this season (Picture from BT Sport)

Elsewhere, John Beaton will take charge of Sunday’s Scottish Championship clash between Hibernian and leaders Rangers (KO 12:30pm, live on Sky Sports).

The 33-year-old will be assisted by Willie Conquer and Graeme Stewart with Euan Anderson in control of fourth official duties.

Beaton was in the middle for the play-off meeting between the two promotion rivals at Easter Road in May, which Hibs won 1-0 but lost 3-2 on aggregate.

The Motherwell-based whistler also handled the Petrofac Training Cup first round tie last season at Ibrox which Rangers won 2-1 after extra time after he sent off Hibs striker Danny Handling for a robust challenge on David Templeton.

He has overseen Hibernian once so far this term in their 3-0 League Cup first round win over Montrose in August but is yet to encounter Rangers in any competition.

John Beaton referee (Hibernian v Rangers - 1st November 2015)
In the middle: Beaton booked six players in Celtic’s 2-1 win over Hearts in the League Cup quarter-finals in midweek (Picture from Sky Sports)

Domestically, Beaton has officiated 13 games, brandishing 53 yellow cards, three red cards and awarding three penalties.

It will be his third Championship game of the season on Sunday when the top-two meet in the capital with Rangers having won all 11 league outings so far and looking to go 11 points clear of Alan Stubbs’ team.

Mark Warburton’s Gers won the reverse meeting at Ibrox in August courtesy of James Tavernier’s free-kick – a game which was refereed by Steven McLean.

Beaton – one of seven Scottish Fifa officials and cousin of fellow referee Steven Nicholls – took charge of several high-profile games last season including Hibernian’s 1-0 defeat by Falkirk in the Scottish Cup semi-finals, Celtic’s 4-0 win over Aberdeen and the Challenge Cup final.

Outside of football, Beaton is a communications officer at the University of Strathclyde and had aspirations to be a journalist including a three-year stint in Public Relations at Strathclyde Police.

The former Braidhurst High pupil has been refereeing since 2001 and became a Category One official in 2009.

Celtic mark flag day with Ross County win in season opener

Celtic began their pursuit of a fifth successive league title with victory over a new-look Ross County in the first match of the 2015-16 Scottish Premiership season at Parkhead.

  •  Griffiths (pen) and Johansen net for Celtic in repeat of 2013 opening day match
  •  Celtic keeper Gordon lucky to stay on pitch after foul on Irvine outside the box
  •  Ronny Deila’s defending champions unfurl championship flag before kick-off
  •  The Hoops unbeaten on opening weekend since 2-1 defeat at Hibs in August 1997
  •  Ross County remain winless in the six games they have played at Celtic Park
Brown carries trophy
Bringing the silver out: Celtic captain Scott Brown carried the Ladbrokes Premiership trophy onto the pitch before kick-off (Picture from Sky Sports)

Celtic began their pursuit of a fifth successive league title with victory over a new-look Ross County in the first match of the 2015-16 Scottish Premiership season at Parkhead.

Leigh Griffiths converted a fourth-minute penalty after a foul by new County skipper Andrew Davies to get the defending champions up and running early on but went off injured soon after.

Stefan Johansen’s rifled effort sealed the three points 10 minutes before half-time and Celtic could have increased their lead had Staggies debutant Scott Fox not been in top form in goal.

The visitors improved after the break and created chances of their own with Craig Gordon – who could have been sent off for bringing down Jackson Irvine in the first half – making fine saves to deny Craig Curran and substitute Raffaele de Vita.

Jim McIntyre on sidelines
Learning curve: Former Dunfermline boss McIntyre is still putting his own stamp on Ross County since replacing Derek Adams last September (Picture from Sky Sports)

After a sluggish start, County boss Jim McIntyre will be encouraged by his side’s second-half display but aggrieved by referee Willie Collum’s decision to show Gordon a yellow card after the Celtic keeper felled Irvine outside the box when a goalscoring opportunity seemed inevitable.

Celtic, however, were more than worthy of the three points and boss Ronny Deila – despite describing his side’s second-half performance as “not good enough” – will be pleased to make a winning start to league business ahead of Wednesday’s crucial Champions League third qualifying round second leg against FK Qarabag.

Ronny Deila second half
Satisfied: Deila described Celtic’s first-half display as “OK” but said his side were “too open” after the break (Picture from Sky Sports)

With that in mind, 18-year-old left-back Kieran Tierney was handed only his second senior start in place of the suspended Emilio Izaguirre and Charlie Mulgrew, who is still nursing a knee injury sustained in last weekend’s friendly win over Rennes.

County boss McIntyre has been the busiest manager in Scotland in the summer having recruited 12 new faces ahead of his first full campaign after performing a miraculous escape with eight wins in a nine-game unbeaten run over the spring to finish ninth last term.

The Dingwall men made the long journey north hoping to spoil Celtic’s flag day and the sense of anticipation reached a crescendo when John Clark – the current Celtic kitman and member of the Lisbon Lions side that won the European Cup in 1967 – began the celebrations before kick-off by unfurling the championship-winning flag.

John Clark
Back on familiar territory: Former Celtic and Scotland centre-back John Clark, 74, was invited by the club to raise the flag after their 46th title triumph last term (Picture from Sky Sports)
Flag
Preparing for lift-off: Celtic’s Scottish Premiership flag on the pole before the pre-match festivities (Picture from Sky Sports)

The buoyant mood in Glasgow’s East End continued when Griffiths was upended in the box by ex-Bradford centre-back Davies – one of five County debutants in their line-up – as early as the third minute.

The Scotland international – restored in attack as summer signing Nadir Ciftci started a six-match ban for biting Dundee’s Jim McAlister while a Dundee United player – had infamously missed a spotkick against Stjarnan in the Champions League last month.

But this time the ex-Wolves striker managed to squeeze the ball underneath the despairing dive of Fox before appearing to feel the effects of Davies’ mistimed lunge on his calf and was eventually withdrawn in discomfort on 18 minutes.

Stefan Scepovic on for Griffiths
Concern: Griffiths, 24, swapped places with the Serbian, 25, after picking up an early injury which may keep him out of Wednesday’s Champions League tie (Picture from Sky Sports)

Hitherto, his replacement Stefan Scepovic – who scored twice on the final day of a difficult debut season against Inverness in May – struggled to make an impact or stake a claim but did force Fox into a diving save in stoppage time.

Celtic had enjoyed a dominant start with a familiar pattern of patient probing and crisp passing before the game’s controversial moment arose, which left the furious County bench berating fourth official Stephen Finnie.

Out of nothing, Dedryck Boyata – the £1.5 million signing from Manchester City making his first league appearance – squandered possession to ex-Nuneaton striker Curran and his exquisite pass released the impressive Irvine down the left channel.

The Australian midfielder – who joined permanently from Celtic this week following a loan spell in Dingwall last term – looked to have a clear sighting of goal after rounding Gordon but the Scot was fortunate to be spared the second red card of his Celtic career.

Gordon yellow card 22 mins
Foul: Gordon rushed out of his box and made contact with Irvine as the County midfielder accelerated towards goal (Picture from Sky Sports)
Gordon booked
Yellow: Willie Collum shows a yellow card to Gordon although Ross County felt it should have been a red card (Picture from Sky Sports)

The Celtic rearguard had conceded only 17 goals on their way to finishing 17 points above second-placed Aberdeen last season but was unconvincing throughout with Curran allowed to advance towards goal unchallenged before firing wide from 20 yards.

But the hosts’ ability to carve frequent chances and charge through the gears was apparent as Gary Mackay-Steven’s poked effort was repelled by Fox following a neat lay-off by his ex-Dundee United team-mate Stuart Armstrong.

And Celtic afforded themselves much-needed breathing space before the interval with Mackay-Steven getting the break of the ball from Marcus Fraser to tee up Johansen, who fired home an unstoppable drive for his third goal of the competitive season already.

Johansen goal 35 mins 2-0
Thumper: The Norwegian – who scored 13 goals in all competitions last season – struck the clinching goal from 15 yards (Picture from Sky Sports)

A quiet start to the second period amid a subdued atmosphere reflected Celtic’s measure of control and the damage limitation exercise facing the Staggies – beginning their fourth successive top-flight campaign.

Although County had drawn on their previous two visits to Parkhead, McIntyre’s side retained hope of at least scoring a goal against the champions – something they had failed to do in the three league meetings last term.

Gordon – who kept 22 clean sheets in his debut campaign to earn the Scottish Football Writers’ Player of the Year award – was equal to the task, though, to block Curran’s effort with his knees before clawing away de Vita’s powerful effort after excellent work by Fraser down the right.

Celtic had evidently – and understandably – taken their foot off the pedal yet still threatened to put County firmly out of sight but failed to capitalise on 22 second-half corners with their disappointing set-piece delivery easy for the visitors to defend against.

Kris Commons replaced Johansen on the hour mark and the midfielder – who returned as a substitute against Qarabag in midweek after breaking his toe – managed to test Fox’s reflexes with a rasping long-range drive.

As sunshine turned to rain in Glasgow, the influential Armstrong saw a clipped cross-cum-shot turned over the crossbar by the busy Fox – a summer recruit from across the city at Partick Thistle.

Nadir Ciftci
Banned: The 23-year-old Turkish international watched proceedings from the stands (Picture from Sky Sports)

With the game wide open, County displayed a willingness to break forward at pace and Michael Gardyne – who made his loan move from Dundee United permanent during the close season – had a half-hearted penalty appeal waved away when barged off by Virgil van Dijk.

The end-to-end nature of the second half continued right up to the final whistle as Commons – a scorer on the opening day against Aberdeen in 2012 – had another fizzed effort beaten away by Fox before Gordon parried away County substitute Brian Graham’s attempt.

Nevertheless an eighth straight opening-day win had long been confirmed for Celtic, who now switch their attention to the defining midweek trip to Azerbaijan and seek to finish off the tie having edged the first leg 1-0.

Meanwhile, the Staggies look ahead to next Saturday’s home clash with Hamilton with belief that they can have a better season than last year.

Ross County summer transfers
Squad turnover: Four of the 12 summer signings so far have previous Scottish top-flight experience while five have arrived from the English Football League (Picture from Sky Sports)

ANALYSIS
Celtic 2-0 Ross County

Managers on touchline
Watching on: Both Ronny Deila and Jim McIntyre will have seen plenty to please them but will expect their respective sides to improve in the coming weeks (Picture from Sky Sports)

“Few were expecting Celtic to slip up given their impeccable record on the opening weekend of the league season and the Hoops completed the job with a relative degree of comfort but not without a few sticky moments. Ross County made the worst possible start by gifting Celtic the initiative through their own carelessness but recovered thereafter to show what their new-look side may be capable of this season. Craig Gordon had to make two or three superb second-half saves but the question regarding whether he should have been on the pitch or not will continue to be asked. The Celtic keeper was sent off in the Scottish Cup semi-final defeat to Inverness last season for a similar offence and one factor that cannot be argued is that on another day another referee may have interpreted the situation as denying a clear goalscoring opportunity. Ronny Deila will be happy enough with what he saw and will be sweating on the fitness of Leigh Griffiths although Nadir Ciftci is available for the midweek trip to Azerbaijan. For Jim McIntyre, he will have been delighted his side didn’t cave in after a poor opening and will hope he can integrate more of his summer additions in the coming weeks when the games get easier.” 


TEAMS:

Celtic team
Rested: Nir Bitton and Mikael Lustig were left out of Celtic’s line-up ahead of the second leg against Qarabag with Efe Ambrose and James Forrest the beneficiaries (Picture from Sky Sports)

Substitutes:  Griffiths (on for Scepovic 19′), Janko (on for Tierney 60′) and Commons (on for Johansen 60′).

Booked:  Gordon (22′), Armstrong (61′)

Goals:  Griffiths (4′ pen), Johansen (35′)

Ross County team
Debutants: Five new arrivals made the starting line-up (Fox, Davies, Foster, Murdoch and McShane) while six other new signings were on the bench (Picture from Sky Sports)

Substitutes:  De Vita (on for Murdoch 56′), Boyce (on for Curran 70′) and Graham (on for McShane 86′).

Booked:  None

Goals:  None


Willie Collum referee
The 36-year-old sent off 11 players in the Scottish Premiership last season – more than any other referee (Picture from Sky Sports)

Referee:  Willie Collum (Scotland) –  8/10
Attendance:  45,197