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  • Dembele bags another brace as Celtic run riot in the Highlands

    Dembele bags another brace as Celtic run riot in the Highlands

    By: Mark Henderson on 01 Mar, 2017 21:47

  • Scottish Premiership
    Tulloch Caledonian Stadium, Inverness
    Wednesday, March 1, 2017

    CELTIC...4
    (Sinclair 43, Dembele 46,73, Armstrong 66)

    INVERNESS CALEY THISTLE...0

    MOUSSA Dembele moved past the 30-goal milestone this season after his second successive brace helped Celtic crush Inverness Caley Thistle in the Highlands and clock up their 22nd league win on the spin.

    A sensational strike from Scott Sinclair put the champions ahead on the stroke of half-time and Dembele seized upon a defensive error from the hosts moments into the second period to put the Bhoys in complete command.

    Stuart Armstrong’s fabulous free-kick and Dembele’s cool finish – his 31st goal of the campaign - saw Brendan Rodgers’ side complete an emphatic victory, which stretched their lead at the top of the table to 27 points and extended their unbeaten domestic run to 33 matches. A sixth successive title is now within touching distance.

    Mikael Lustig and Gary Mackay-Steven both started as the manager made two changes to the side which faced against Hamilton Accies last weekend. Cristian Gamboa and the injured James Forrest dropped out.

    Despite the long journey north and midweek evening kick off, the Celtic support packed out the away end and held up a banner before kick-off to show their support for club icon Billy McNeill after his family revealed on Sunday that he was battling dementia.

    On a freezing night in the Highlands, the Hoops made the early running, with Kieran Tierney shooting over in the box after linking up with Scott Sinclair, and the on-form Dembele drawing two saves from Owan Fon Williams.

    The home side, buoyed by a recent upturn in form, including a 2-1 win over Rangers in their last match, were playing with renewed vigour, and Billy McKay had their first attempt on goal in the 21st minute but Craig Gordon made a comfortable save.  

    Dembele had looked hungry to add to his 29 goals this season in the opening stages and he showcased his power and pace midway through the half with a rampaging run through the heart of the Inverness defence that almost paid dividends.

    As the half-hour mark approached, the Hoops started to crank up the pressure and make real inroads into the hosts’ defence, who were now encamped on the edge of their own box.  

    Fon Wiliams had to make a smart stop from Gary Mackay-Steven’s crisp volley following a corner, Gary Warren blocked Scott Brown’s effort on the edge of the box and Nir Bitton tried his luck from distance.   

    Just two minutes before the interval, Celtic broke the deadlock in impressive style. Sinclair collected a loose ball 30 yards from goal, skipped past Ross Draper and then curled into the top corner. It was a fantastic finish from the winger and his goal in four matches.   

    After waiting so long in the first half to open the scoring, the champions only took seconds to double their advantage following the restart as they capitalised on a defensive mishap from the Caley Jags

    Straight from the Inverness kick off, the ball was worked back to goalkeeper Fon Williams, who made a mess of his clearance. As the loose ball spun in the air, Dembele was first to it, coolly evading the despairing dive of Fon Williams before applying the finish.    

    It should have been 3-0 in the 49th minute as Sinclair fired over after brilliant work from Dembele. It was all Celtic now as the Highlanders struggled to stem the tide, and Fon Williams had to pull off an excellent reaction save to thwart Armstrong from close range.   

    Nir Bitton fired wide and Mikael Lustig shot over as the onslaught continued from the Bhoys. Goal number soon three soon arrived. Dembele was sent tumbling on the angle of the box and Armstrong deceived Fon Williams, who was expecting the cross, by whipping the resultant free-kick inside the near post.  

    Gordon was finally called into meaningful action when he tipped over from substitute Iain Vigurs’ long-range volley. Moments later, however, Brendan Rodgers’ side inflicted further punishment. Tierney picked out the run of Dembele with a raking ball over the top. The Frenchman bore down on goal and confidently chipped the ball over the advancing Fon Williams and into the far corner.   

    And the visitors could have added to their tally as the clock ticked down, with Dembele, Sinclair and McGregor all having chances as the Hoops juggernaut rolled on. 

    CELTIC (4-3-3) Gordon; Lustig, Boyata, Sviatchenko, Tierney; Bitton, Brown (Henderson 78) Armstrong; Mackay-Steven (McGregor 67), Sinclair; Dembele
    Not Used: De Vries, Toure, Izaguirre, Gamboa, Griffiths

    INVERNESS CALEY THITLE (4-2-3-1) Fon Williams; McKay, Laing, Warren, Raven; Tansey, Draper; King, Polworth, Cole (Vigurs 65) Billy McKay (Anier 82)
    Not Used: Hoban, McNaughton, Ebbe, Fisher, Boden

    Website Man of the Match: Moussa Dembele 

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