Celtic 3-0 Inverness CT: Second half improvement from the league leaders
By Charlie McFaulds
Last Updated: 21/02/16 3:52pm
Celtic stretched their lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership to six points with a 3-0 victory over Inverness CT.
Gary Mackay-Steven and Leigh Griffiths both scored in a five-minute spell in the early stages of the second half before the latter hit his 32nd goal of the campaign in stoppage-time.
Inverness arrived at Celtic Park full of confidence after beating title challengers Aberdeen last Monday, and they were rarely troubled in the opening half in which the visitors looked comfortable throughout.
Indeed Caley Thistle squandered the best opportunity of the half on 18 minutes when Craig Gordon was caught under a free-kick from Iain Vigurs and Gary Warren arrived behind the goalkeeper to head the ball over an open goal.
Celtic were stung into a response - Dedryck Boyata found Griffiths with a short forward pass and the striker tried to catch out Owain Fon Williams at his near post, but the keeper got down to his left and scooped the ball wide.
Inverness again came close as Mackay-Steven was dispossessed by Vigurs at the side of the Celtic penalty area and he cut a pass back to Ross Draper whose first-time drive took a nick off a defender and flew inches wide of the far post.
Mackay-Steven was involved at the other end on 30 minutes as he skipped inside a defender and threaded a pass to Stuart Armstrong but the midfielder dragged his low shot wide from just inside the box.
Celtic created another chance after some patient build-up ended with Stefan Johansen clipping a pass into the box for Armstrong, who hit a shot on the turn from 12 yards straight into the goalkeeper's arms.
The Hoops started the second half by upping the pace and forcing Inverness back, but they were caught on the break when Jordan Roberts raced through with last-man Erik Sviatchenko on his heels and unable to risk a challenge, but the advancing Gordon spread himself to make the block.
It turned out to be a pivotal moment in the game as Celtic made the breakthrough on 54 minutes after further probing around the Inverness penalty area ended with Armstrong setting up Mackay-Steven to lash his first-time shot into the corner from the 18-yard line.
Celtic doubled their lead on 59 minutes when Kieran Tierney slipped a quick pass to Griffiths in the right side of the box, and despite having three Caley Thistle players around him the striker created enough space to place a low shot in off the far post.
Johansen should have added the third on 66 minutes when he took a return pass from the overlapping Mikael Lustig but swept a weak shot from 10 yards which was saved by Williams.
Inverness only posed a late threat from a Greg Tansey free-kick which cleared the wall from 25-yards but Gordon clutched comfortably under his bar.
Ronnie Deila introduced Ryan Christie, Scott Allan and Patrick Roberts into the action with all three looking lively, and when the latter pair combined inside the box the net-bound shot from the on-loan Manchester City winger was blocked by Warren.
Christie then played a one-two with Roberts and slipped a pass to Allan to lay the ball back to Griffiths and he swept a low drive into the corner from 22 yards to seal the win.