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  • Celts fall to first league loss of the season

    Celts fall to first league loss of the season

    By: Mark Henderson on 23 Aug, 2014 14:26

  • Scottish Premiership
    Tulloch Caledonian Stadium, Inverness
    Saturday, August 23, 2014

    INVERNESS CALEY THISTLE...1
    (O’Connell o.g. 62)

    CELTIC...0

    CELTIC’s 100 per cent start to the domestic campaign came to an end today in the Highlands as an Eoghan O’Connell’s own goal handed Inverness Caley Thistle a narrow 1-0 victory.

    The Irish youngster could only divert Marley Watkins’ searching cross into his own net in the 62nd minute and the hosts held firm for the remainder of the contest to maintain their unbeaten start to the season.

    It was a disappointing outcome for Ronny Deila’s men, who were left to rue a number of missed opportunities, particularly in the opening 45 minutes, and the manager will be looking for a positive response from his players in Tuesday’s night’s vital UEFA Champions League play-off against NK Maribor.

    With the magnitude of that match weighing on his mind, the Hoops boss had rang the changes from the side who drew 1-1 with the Slovenians midweek in the away leg

    Among the alterations, Lukasz Zaluska replaced Craig Gordon between the sticks, while youngsters O’Connell, Filip Twardzik, Liam Henderson and Dylan McGeouch were handed an opportunity to impress.

    Kris Commons led the line, with support provided on each flank from Leigh Griffiths and Teemu Pukki.

    Despite the adjustments, it only took 90 seconds for the visitors to threaten as McGeouch burst through the middle and picked out Commons in the box, who chipped over from an acute angle.

    John Hughes’ side replied with a curling free-kick from Greg Tansey which whistled narrowly wide of the near post.  

    And the same player wasn’t far away with another drive from distance as the hosts played with the confidence of a team who had made an impressive start to the season.

    But the Hoops were posing the greater menace as Griffiths found the side-netting and Pukki’s inviting cross nearly picked out Commons in the middle.

    Cutting in from the left, Pukki was becoming more prominent in proceedings, and Brill had to rush from his line to deny the striker. McGeouch was first to the loose ball and managed to round the goalkeeper but the close attentions of several defenders forced him wide and a corner was his only reward.

    A delightful pass from Griffiths then picked out Henderson on the left but Brill was able to smother his cross-shot, before Ambrose saw a volley tipped over by the shot-stopper.

    Celtic were now asserting their authority on the contest, and Brill had to make a brilliant double save to deny Pukki after he had been played in by Commons.

    The Caley Jags’ No. 1 was called into action again in the 28th minute, getting an outstretched hand to Commons’ rasping drive after Pukki had found him with a pinpoint through ball.

    Brill was finally beaten seven minutes later as Nir Bitton danced away from Ross Draper and took aim from 20 yards. However, this time, the crossbar came to the home side’s rescue as the Israeli’s curling shot bounced to safety.

    Perhaps boosted by their stroke of fortune, the Highlanders rediscovered their attacking intent as half-time approached, and Charlie Mulgrew had to clear off the line after Gary Warren’s looping header from a corner had evaded Zaluska.

    Back came the Bhoys, though, and another well-struck shot from Bitton was deliberately deflected on its way to goal by Pukki to no avail.

    Ronny Deila introduced Stefan Johansen and Callum McGregor at the break and the latter, fresh from his goal against Maribor there days ago, was soon making inroads into the home side’s backline.

    Driving in from the right, the 21-year-old nutmegged one defender before being felled at the edge of the area but no free-kick was forthcoming.

    McGeouch then found himself with some room in the box after a deft flick from Commons but he couldn’t capitalise. A fantastic, fizzing ball in from McGregor found its target in Grifiths but he couldn’t bring it under control.

    The former Hibs man had more luck on the hour mark as Commons sent him scampering clear but his low effort was scooped up by Brill.

    Celtic had lacked a killer instinct in front of goal and they were punished shortly after as the home side opened the scoring. Watkins made progress down the right and his bouncing delivery ended up in the net via the unfortunate O’Connell.

    Anthony Stokes entered the fray as the Scottish champions sought a swift response to this setback, and within minutes his excellently return pass gave Commons a sight of goal in the box but he couldn’t generate enough power to trouble Brill.

    As Celtic committed more men forward in search of a leveller, Ryan Christie could have sealed the victory for the Highlanders but he blasted wide from 16 yards.

    And after Danny Williams had launched a lightning breakaway in the closing stages, Zaluska had to produce a terrific stop to thwart substitute Nick Ross.

    CELTIC (4-3-3) Zaluska; Ambrose, O’Connell, Mulgrew, Twardzik (Johansen 46); Henderson, Bitton, McGeouch; Griffiths (Stokes 67) Commons, Pukki (McGregor 46)

    Not Used: Fasan, Berget, Denayer, Kayal

    INVERNESS CALEY THISTLE (4-2-3-1) Brill; Raven, Warren, Meekings, Shinnie; Draper, Tansey; Watkins (Doran  90), Christie (Ross 79) Williams; McKay (Polworth 79)

    Not Used: Esson, Horner, Tremarco

    Website Man of the Match: Liam Henderson

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