Shane Duffy said he “feels a lot of pressure” to succeed at Celtic after scoring on his debut in a 5-0 Scottish Premiership rout of Ross County.
The Republic of Ireland defender headed the third after Odsonne Edouard’s early penalty and Albian Ajeti’s strike for the champions at Dingwall.
Kristoffer Ajer and Patryk Klimala also scored to keep Celtic six points behind leaders Rangers with two games in hand.
“It wasn’t perfect out there, but I’m my biggest critic,” said Duffy.
“I’m positive it will grow and get better. I’m delighted to get a wining start and clean sheet.”
Describing his debut as “a dream come true”, the on-loan Brighton centre-back – who is a lifelong Celtic fan – added: “I tried not to overthink it, I had to do my job. I know there’s a lot of pressure on me to come up here and do well.
“The first half was a bit edgy and we weren’t really happy, we had a to fix a few things at half-time.”
County, with about 300 home fans watching in a test event for the return of supporters, hit the post either side of half-time but had no answer to Celtic’s attacking power.
The Glasgow side’s switch to a back three allowed them to play to their strengths and pair Edouard and Ajeti up front for the first time. The effect was devastating, although it came with a couple of nervy moments at the other end.
County could not take advantage, with Celtic goalkeeper Vasilis Barkas impressing as he tipped a Vigurs free-kick on to the upright and saved smartly from a near-post Ross Stewart header.
Celtic were 2-0 up inside 20 minutes, with both goals a gift. Coll Donaldson clipped Edouard, allowing the striker to send Ross Laidlaw the wrong way from the spot, and then Ajeti lashed in from six yards on his first start after the hosts made a mess of trying to clear a free-kick. It is now three goals in three league outings for the Switzerland international.
Duffy’s thumping header from a Callum McGregor corner put the result beyond doubt on the hour and Ajer soon made it four from Olivier Ntcham’s low delivery.
Klimala, having failed to convert from close range after wonderful build-up play from Edouard, made amends by punishing a botched Vigurs backpass to round off the champions’ third straight league win.
Man of the match – Odsonne Edouard
What did we learn?
Celtic need to stick with a 3-5-2. Lennon admitted pre-match it is his favoured formation, with only his strikers’ lack of fitness preventing him deploying it until now. Edouard dovetailed well with Ajeti, whose predatory instincts again came to the fore.
And while it can leave them vulnerable in defence, particularly down the flanks where Jeremie Frimpong and James Forrest marauded forward, it is a trade-off worth taking. Duffy slotted in seamlessly to the back three, gave notice of his goal threat, and will only improve when his match fitness is up to scratch.
County, meanwhile, must eradicate the lapses at the back. They remain in the top six, but have the league’s second worst defensive record with 11 goals conceded.
Stuart Kettlewell’s side offered plenty of enterprising forward play, only to have it undermined by losing soft goals.
What did they say?
Ross County manager Stuart Kettlewell: “It was a crazy game. We were the dominant team in the first half and created the best opportunities by far in open play. We got done by a free-kick and penalty.
“The big differences came in the 18-yard boxes, we didn’t defend well enough. Outwith that, we created so many chances and had to be more ruthless.”
Celtic manager Neil Lennon: “First half we were a little bit off it, which was to be expected with a few changes and different system. As the game went on we looked far more powerful.
“Our goalkeeper made some great saves as well – which is something we’ll have to look at – but I’m delighted for him and it was an all-round good team performance in the end.”
Celtic will be eyeing another win when they travel to coronavirus-hit St Mirren on Wednesday, while Ross County are away to St Johnstone on Saturday.
- 11VigursSubstituted forKellyat 80′minutes
- 7GardyneSubstituted forCharles-Cookat 79′minutes
- 22TillsonBooked at 56minsSubstituted forDraperat 65′minutes
- 9MckaySubstituted forShawat 32′minutes
- 35AjerBooked at 13mins
- 8BrownSubstituted forTurnbullat 77′minutes
- 21NtchamSubstituted forElyounoussiat 71′minutes
- 42McGregorSubstituted forSoroat 78′minutes
- 10AjetiSubstituted forKlimalaat 62′minutes
- 22EdouardSubstituted forChristieat 71′minutes
- Andrew Dallas
Match ends, Ross County 0, Celtic 5.
Second Half ends, Ross County 0, Celtic 5.
David Turnbull (Celtic) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Oli Shaw (Ross County).
Attempt missed. Ryan Christie (Celtic) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by James Forrest.
Foul by Patryk Klimala (Celtic).
Josh Reid (Ross County) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Corner, Ross County. Conceded by Shane Duffy.
Mohamed Elyounoussi (Celtic) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Ross Draper (Ross County).
Attempt missed. Kristoffer Ajer (Celtic) right footed shot from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by Ryan Christie with a cross following a set piece situation.
Jeremie Frimpong (Celtic) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Josh Reid (Ross County).
Attempt saved. Kristoffer Ajer (Celtic) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by David Turnbull.
Corner, Celtic. Conceded by Alex Iacovitti.
Patryk Klimala (Celtic) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Ross Draper (Ross County).
Oli Shaw (Ross County) hits the right post with a right footed shot from outside the box from a direct free kick.
Substitution, Ross County. Stephen Kelly replaces Iain Vigurs.
Substitution, Ross County. Regan Charles-Cook replaces Michael Gardyne.