Scottish Premiership: Celtic stretch lead as pressure grows on Van Bronckhorst

Premiership leaders Celtic came from behind to beat Ross County 2-1 and move nine points clear of Rangers after conceding their fourth penalty for handball in as many games. The victory ensured Celtic exploited the opportunity presented by Rangers’ earlier draw at St Mirren and go into the World Cup break with a commanding lead.

David Cancola put County ahead early in the second half at Celtic Park after Matt O’Riley was penalised by the referee, David Munro. Ange Postecoglou stood with his hands covering his mouth in shock after Callum Johnson kicked the ball off O’Riley from close range on the side of the box. The midfielder was moving his arm closer to his body but the decision was backed by video assistant referee, Euan Anderson.

Celtic were soon denied a penalty claim and the controversy sparked the home side into life. Munro waved away appeals for a penalty after Anthony Ralston went down amid close attention from behind from opposite right-back Johnson, a decision confirmed by a VAR check.

Kyogo Furuhashi volleyed over before Celtic levelled in the 62nd minute. Reo Hatate danced round the outside of the narrow County defence and cut back for David Turnbull, who took a touch and stuck the ball through Ross Laidlaw’s legs. The champions were ahead six minutes later. Sead Haksabanovic exchanged passes with Turnbull and then Hatate before slotting the ball just inside the far post from 15 yards.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst found himself again with his Rangers future in sharp focus after a 1-1 draw with St Mirren. The 1-0 midweek home win against Hearts appeared to give the under-fire Rangers boss some respite but it was back to square one in Paisley.

Returning St Mirren striker Jonah Ayunga drove the home side into the lead two minutes after the restart before Rangers captain James Tavernier levelled with a penalty with six minutes of normal time remaining, after the referee Kevin Clancy had originally booked Ryan Kent for diving before a VAR check. Treatment for injury to Rangers defender Leon King explained much of the nine minutes added on but the visitors could not find a winner.

Regarding his job situation, Van Bronckhorst told Sky Sports: “I have no fear, no. I never have fear. I just see what comes. We are going to sit down [with the board], that is for sure, and speak about the last couple of months and which way to go forward. I said many times before that if we keep dropping points I am accountable for that. That is what comes from the job.”

Livingston were denied a third straight Scottish Premiership win in dramatic fashion after 10-man Hearts grabbed a draw with almost the final kick of the game. The visitors took the lead through Stephen Kelly. Then Sean Kelly had a penalty saved as Hearts had Kye Rowles sent off for conceding the spot-kick.

The hosts could have been reduced to nine men when Alex Cochrane went in on Nicky Devlin, but instead Josh Ginnelly hammered home an equaliser deep into injury time.

Daniel Armstrong’s penalty was the difference as Kilmarnock edged out Hibernian 1-0 to claim a priceless victory at Rugby Park to move off the bottom of the table.

Referee David Dickinson had originally awarded a free-kick against Hibs defender Marijan Cabraja early in the second half but the decision was overruled after VAR ruled the contact to have taken place just inside the box.

Armstrong celebrated signing a new Kilmarnock contract this week by sending David Marshall the wrong way to give the home side the victory and end a run of three successive defeats. Hibs went close through Elias Melkersen, while Mykola Kukharevych had a goal disallowed for offside as they slipped to a sixth defeat in seven matches.

The St Johnstone manager, Callum Davidson, believes his side are in a “good place” as they head into the break buoyed by a five-match unbeaten run.

The McDiarmid Park side looked to be heading for victory after Drey Wright’s 26th-minute breakthrough against Motherwell. But the visitors levelled things with a deflected Blair Spittal free-kick.

The Aberdeen manager, Jim Goodwin, praised his side for a different type of performance as they ground out a 1-0 win over Dundee United in the late kick-off to go into the World Cup break third in the table.

Bojan Miovski netted the only goal of the game from the penalty spot after Mark Birighitti had fouled Luís Lopes, and Goodwin praised his under-fire defence. “I’m delighted with the end result,” he said. “If you’d offered me a scrappy 1-0 win before the game, I’d certainly have taken it.”