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  • Griffiths at the double to send Celts six points clear

    Griffiths at the double to send Celts six points clear

    By: Martin Dalziel on 20 Feb, 2016 16:57

  • Scottish Premiership
    Celtic Park
    Saturday, February 20, 2016

    (Mackay-Steven 53, Griffiths 59, 90+2)


    A QUICK-FIRE second-half double helped the champions go six points clear at the top of the SPFL Premiership as they saw off a spirited Inverness Caley Thistle side at Paradise with a 3-0 victory.

    After a frustrating first-half for Ronny Deila’s side, the deadlock was broken by Gary Mackay-Steven early in the second-half as he drilled in a well-placed volley from the edge of the area following neat play on the edge of the box.

    Leigh Griffiths then grabbed his 31st goal of the season with a typically deadly strike inside the area to double the lead minutes later, and he finished the day off with a powerful shot in stoppage time after excellent footwork from substitutes Patrick Roberts, Ryan Christie and Scott Allan.

    Ronny Deila named an unchanged starting XI from the side that defeated Ross County last weekend and they dominated the opening stages of the match, enjoying all the possession, but they found little penetration through the Inverness backline.

    Dedryck Boyata went near with a glancing header but the Belgian defender also landed the Bhoys in trouble at the back on several occasions with a few stray passes, before he fouled Iain Vigurs for Caley Thistle's best chance of the game.

    Vigurs dusted himself down to curl in a dangerous ball to the back post from the left flank, which was missed by everyone, allowing Gary Warren to head wide with the goal gaping.

    The Celts responded through Griffiths, who stung the hands of Fon-Williams in the Inverness goal with a low drive from 20 yards, but the Highland side remained on top, pressing the Bhoys high up the pitch, and they went on to enjoy their best spell of the first-half.

    The visitors went close again to taking the lead when Ross Draper fizzed a curling shot wide after Mackay-Steven lost possession outside the box. The Highlanders then stole the ball off Griffiths high up the pitch and launched a four-on-two counter-attack, but Griffiths showed great determination to track back and stop Miles Storey from pulling the trigger in the box.

    The half ended with Erik Sviatchenko booked for a foul on Jordan Roberts as the pair fought for a ball over the top, but the visitors couldn’t fashion a chance from the free-kick.

    The second-half had a frantic opening as both teams flooded forward to find the opener, and Celtic had Craig Gordon to thank when he saved brilliantly from Roberts, spreading himself well and timing his block to perfection.

    The deadlock was finally broken moments later, however, when a powerful snapshot from Mackay-Steven outside the box whistled past Fon-Williams and hit the back of the net. The goal came from some neat play on the edge of the area between Nir Bitton and Sviatchenko before the ball sat up kindly for Mackay-Steven, who made sure of the shot from 20 yards.

    And John Hughes’ side soon found themselves 2-0 down when Griffiths beat Fon-Williams with a low angled drive from the right of the box.

    The forward had dropped deep to spread play to Tierney on the left and the full-back returned the favour by finding Griffiths’ feet outside the box. The striker then turned his man and drove into the box before lashing a pinpoint shot into the bottom corner to give the Hoops breathing space on the hour mark.

    Ronny Deila introduced Scott Allan shortly afterwards in place of Armstrong on the left, and Celtic almost made it 3-0 as they burst forward with a great flowing move through Johansen and Mikael Lustig, but the Norwegian’s final shot was saved comfortably by the Inverness keeper.

    The midfielder was then replaced by former Caley Thistle attacker Ryan Christie, who looked eager to impress by gathering the ball in good areas and trying to link up with Allan down the left.

    Patrick Roberts then replaced Mackay-Steven to make his debut for the champions and almost marked it with a goal, but the Inverness defence did well to block his low shot in the box.

    There was one more goal left in the Bhoys, however and Roberts did have a say in it. His flick to Scott Allan on the edge of the box allowed the ex-Hibs midfielder to set up Griffiths for his second of the afternoon with a clinical finish from the left in stoppage time.

    The Bhoys now prepare to head to Hamilton on Friday with a six-point lead at the top of the table over Aberdeen.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Lustig, Boyata, Sviatchenko, Tierney; Brown, Bitton; Mackay-Steven (Roberts 82), Johansen (Christie 67), Armstrong (Allan 63); Griffiths.
    Not used: Bailly, Mulgrew, Commons, Kazim-Richards

    INVERNESS CALEY THISTLE (4-2-3-1) Fon-Williams; Horner (Hughes 78), Warren, Devine, Tremarco; Tansey (Williams 88), Draper; Polworth, Roberts (Mbuyi-Mutombo 72), Vigurs; Storey.
    Not used: Esson, Wedderburn, Brown, Maclennan

    Website man of the match: Kieran Tierney


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