Ross County have caused a huge shock in the League Cup by eliminating Celtic from the League Cup at Parkhead, beating the holders 2-0.
Stuart Kettlewell’s visiting party battled so well in the first half and got ahead from the penalty spot courtesy of Ross Stewart eight minutes from the interval. Alex Iacovitti got the second in the dying embers of the match to hand the Staggies a huge upset.
Kettlewell’s team had a point to prove after a disastrous 3-1 defeat to 10-man Kilmarnock last weekend, in which the Staggies boss labelled it one of the worst performances of his 12-year Dingwall association. Against a Celtic side in a rut themselves as pressure mounts on Neil Lennon, both managers needed positives from this one.
County were set to defend at Celtic Park, frustrating a Hoops side who threw little at them in the first half-hour. While not creating much themselves, their hosts had done nothing either.
It was a stop-start affair before Josh Reid provided magic, the teenage left-back beating three Celtic players and sending a dangerous ball into the penalty box, Christopher Julien hauling Stewart down.
The striker stepped up and scored, Kettlewell’s plan working to perfection as Ross County took control. That would almost be undone five minutes before half-time, Albian Ajeti missing a big chance as his effort crashed off the post.
A huge second half awaited if the Dingwall side were to achieve a stunning League Cup quarter-final place. Celtic would surely come out swinging as they toiled in the first 45 but again they were passive.
This suited Kettlewell’s team as again they were able to man the barricades and keep them out. Formation changes and attacking substitutions were made by home boss Lennon as his side desperately looked for a leveler.
Odsonne Edouard had a big chance inside the box as did Mohamed Elyounoussi but from the unlikeliest of sources, it was County defender Iacovitti who was to hit the net next.
Iain Vigurs’ corner was flicked on brilliantly by Coll Donaldson, who found his defensive partner, sending the Dingwall side into footballing heaven six minutes from time as his header beat the Hoops defence.
Celtic didn’t look like scoring one never mind two before full-time and Kettlewell’s men grinded out an almighty shock in Glasgow. Here are three things we learned.
Kettlewell gets a response at Celtic Park
While there was never going to be great expectation in this one, Kettlewell had to seem some fight from his team. While they have had victories in the League Cup, they’ve won once since August against Premiership opposition.
And oh did he get his response, his team turning in the best performance of his managerial career to provide a massive shock.
There appeared to be a simple plan for Ross County in Glasgow – defend valiantly and take your chances when they appear. It’s not hard to understand but it sure was effective.
Celtic were left chasing the game without any real end product in large spells of the match. Kettlewell’s team didn’t do much going forward either, but when a chance came, they converted and stunned the dominant holders in the process.
League Cup’s up for grabs
The Hoops have won the last four League Cup titles. Rather aptly, it was the last side to win it who’s managed to eliminate them, Ross County. It was a deserved win for the away team too.
Now the domestic cup will go to a new home for the 2020/21 season. Teams remaining in the tournament must see this as a huge opportunity now.