In the latest in this series of Memory Match St Anthony takes a fond look back at another Celtic game from the past. With Ross County due to visit Parkhead this weekend he focuses on a game from 2013 which is best remembered as Flag Day.
3 August 2013 Celtic 2-1 Ross County Attendance: 45,705
This fixture was the opening league game of the season and there was a party atmosphere in Celtic Park beforehand when the League Flag was unveiled by Celtic director, John Keane. Keane was long respected for his part in Celtic avoiding bankruptcy in 1994 at the time of the Fergus McCann takeover and the fans gave him an enormous and deserved ovation as the flag was unfurled.
Celtic were going through a period of transition with Victor Wanyama and Gary Hooper both heading to the English Premiership that summer with Celtic investing in their new acquisitions, Virgil Van Dijk, Amido Balde, and Derk Boeriggter as Neil Lennon’s new Celtic team took shape.
Ross County clearly weren’t in Glasgow to make up the numbers and they took the lead in only three minutes when their young Dutch midfielder, Darren Maatsen, unleashed a superb shot from the edge of the area to give his team the lead. Celtic responded well with their Dutch winger, Boeriggter, on his debut, showing great pace and enterprise down the left wing and there was disappointment when he had to limp off injured in the first half. Boeriggter had a reputation for being injury prone at Ajax and, sadly, injuries would blight his time with Celtic also. He was replaced by young Celtic striker, Tony Watt.
Celtic’s hero on the day was Anthony Stokes who showed there was life after Gary Hooper’s departure by scoring the two goals which won the day for the Celts. In 27 minutes he showed a predator’s instinct by being on the spot to score after a Joe Ledley shot was blocked and with only three minutes remaining he beat County defender, Brian McLean, to unleash a great shot which was a deserved winner and relieved the pressure around Celtic Park, both on the pitch, and in the stands.
The fans may have been slightly disappointed that Celtic only won narrowly by 2-1 but the more astute amongst them would have appreciated that there was a more important game looming in midweek when Celtic would take a perilous 1-0 lead to the Swedish champions of Elfsborg. It was to be a dramatic couple of weeks for Lennon’s team. A 0-0 draw in Sweden saw them through to the final saw them through to the final qualifier against Shakhtar Karagandy and one of the most dramatic finishes to a European tie ever seen at Celtic Park. But that’s a story for another day.