Cameron Carter-Vickers and Celtic started the Championship group stage in the Scottish Premiership with a hard-earned win over Ross County, while James Sands came off the bench to help Rangers to the win over Joe Efford and Motherwell.
Ross County 0-2 Celtic
Goals in both halves helped Celtic kick off the Championship round with a win over Ross County at Global Energy Stadium as they get closer to completing the double this season.
Cameron Carter-Vickers took up his usual spot in central defense for the Hoops and had another strong outing, completing 84 percent of his passes and winning six duels.
The race for the Scottish Premiership title is far from over, but Celtic wanted to make sure they maintained that six-point gap between them and Rangers as they both head into the final derby of the season. With four games remaining, anything can happen along the way.
The visitors jumped out to the lead in the 12th minute when Jota’s brilliant cross from the right side found his Japanese teammate Kyogo Furuhashi in the area to send a darting header into the back of the net.
Celtic looked sharp in the first half and should have added on to their tally, but Ross County goalkeeper Ross Laidlaw kept the game close with some good saves.
The second half would be much of the same as the hosts found themselves absorbing every attack their opponents put on their goal.
However, they could only hold on for so long as Celtic finally scored another in the 87th minute. Liel Abada’s shot came off the crossbar, but Jota was quick to react to pounce on the loose ball and slid in to put it across the line.
The win keeps Celtic at the top of the standings with 85 points.
Motherwell 1-3 Rangers
Rangers were forced to play with 10 men for most of the game, but that did not matter in the end as they rallied to get the win over Motherwell at Fir Park.
Joe Efford had a quiet afternoon in his 73 minutes on the field for Motherwell, winning one duel along with a shot. On the other side, James Sands came on to play 22 minutes for Rangers, winning three duels.
The hosts did themselves no favors in the first half as they found themselves a goal down in the 14th minute. Motherwell goalkeeper Liam Kelly palmed the ball into his own goal as he tried to prevent his opponent’s attempt.
Rangers may have had the lead, but they found themselves a man down in the 28th minute when the referee showed a red card to Leon Balogun after a reckless tackle on Dean Cornelius.
The sending off gave Motherwell some inspiration and they would go on to level the score after the half-hour mark. Ross Tierney headed in the ball from a Jake Carroll cross on the left side.
The second half saw Rangers come out more composed as they went to retake the lead in the 47th minute when Fashion Sakala dribbled the ball from the midfield to set up Scott Wright for a strike just inside the area.
Sakala continued to terrorize Motherwell’s backline as he went on to earn a penalty after being brought down in the area by Bevis Mugabi. Rangers’ captain James Tavernier stepped up to put away the spot-kick in the 62nd minute.
Rangers remain in second place in the standings with 79 points.
In the relegation half of the playoffs, Christian Ramirez came on to play 20 minutes and Dante Polvara watched on from the bench while Sebastian Soto came on to play four minutes and change as Livingston secured a 2-1 win over Aberdeen.
Christopher Mueller played the final 20 minutes for Hibernian in their 1-0 win over St. Mirren.
Brian Schwake was between the sticks for Edinburgh City as they moved closer to locking down a spot in the promotion playoffs with a 2-1 win over Annan Athletic.
Andrew Barrowman went the distance and scored a stunner of a goal to help Cowdenbeath to a 4-1 win over Elgin City.