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  • Honours even in the Highlands

    Honours even in the Highlands

    By: Mark Henderson on 11 Apr, 2015 15:03

  • Scottish Premiership
    Tulloch Caledonian Stadium
    Saturday, April 11, 2015

    (Ofere 5)

    (Griffiths 3)

    LEIGH Griffiths’ early goal wasn’t enough to secure Celtic victory in the Highlands against a resilient Inverness Caley Thistle side.

    The frontman rifled in from 18 yards inside the opening three minutes to give Ronny Deila’s side the perfect start at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium.

    But the Caley Jags quickly cancelled that out through Edward Ofere, who  converted from close range after Jason Denayer had blocked Ryan Christie’s shot on the line.

    In frankly horrendous windy conditions, the Hoops were unable to proffer a winning goal, despite applying some late pressure.  
    Griffiths returned to spearhead the Celtic attack as the manager made three changes to the team that defeated Partick Thistle 2-0 on Wednesday night.

    The striker replaced John Guidetti in the starting XI, with Efe Ambrose and captain Scott Brown also restored to the side, the latter having served his suspension. Adam Matthews and Kris Commons joined Guidetti in dropping to the bench.

    And it didn’t take long for Griffiths to show his deadly finishing prowess as he fired the Hoops ahead.

    Collecting a precise ball over the top from Brown, the hit-man drove at Gary Warren, fashioned a yard of space on the edge of the box and then dispatched a shot into the far corner.

    But the home side highlighted why they have been flying high this season by mustering an instant reply to draw level. Celtic failed to deal with a cross into the box from the left in the swirling wind and Warren was able to tee-up Ryan Christie at the far post.

    Although Jason Denayer was able to block his shot on the line, Ofere was on hand to bundle home the loose ball.

    Both teams were offering plenty of early enterprise, making for entertaining fare for supporters, and Stuart Armstrong was next to try his luck, dragging a shot wide from 20 yards.

    It had been a breathless start to proceedings but there was an unfortunate pause in play on the quarter-hour mark as Inverness goalkeeper Dean Brill had to be stretched off after Gary Mackay-Steven had challenged the shot-stopper following an under-hit passback. He was replaced by Ryan Esson.

    And the substitute was soon called into action at his near post as Stefan Johansen, so impressive as stand-in skipper in the win over Thistle, fizzed in an angled effort but it was simple stop for the experienced minder.

    For all of the Highlanders’ earnest the most menacing moves were being instigated by Ronny Deila’s men.

    A quick interchange of passes saw Brown thrust through the middle and pick out Mackay-Steven on the right but he elected to pick out a team-mate rather than pulling the trigger and chance went amiss.

    Brown had a decent strike from distance saved on the half-hour mark but the flow of the game was being increasingly punctuated by fouls as both sides fought for supremacy. 
    And referee Craig Thomson delved into his pocket to produce a flurry of cards, with Josh Meekings and Ofere seeing yellow for the home side and Virgil van Dijk going into the book for the Bhoys.

    The official was involved again five minutes before the break as he cautioned Ross Draper for persistent fouling after he sent Mackay-Steven tumbling outside the box. 

    From Johansen’s resultant free-kick, Ambrose’s glancing header was tipped over by Esson at full stretch.

    The Hoops continued to probe for a second as the half drew to a close. Griffiths sent an ambitious volley over after being found by Mackay-Steven’s delicate pass, before Izaguirre was sent sprawling by Marley Watkins as he arrowed towards the box, leading to a fourth yellow card for the home side. Celtic failed to profit from the free-kick, however. 

    And there was still time for Griffiths to curl a set-piece over from 30 yards after Brown had been hauled back by Greg Tansey, who was perhaps fortunate not to enter the book as well. 

    The match continued at a frenetic pace after the interval, with Meekings coming close with a header from a corner.

    Ronny Deila’s side responded with a free-kick from Armstrong which Denayer headed on target, prompting Esson into a smart reaction save. 

    Armstrong took the subsequent corner and his delivery spun agonisingly out of reach of several Celtic attackers.
    Indeed, with passing problematic amid the blustery conditions, dead-ball situations looked the most likely route of finding the net.

    Draper’s foul on Johansen gave van Dijk the chance to try his luck from 20 yards but the wall did its job from the Dutchman’s rasping drive. 

    Brown, typically assertive as he attempted to drive his team on, was denied a penalty claim after going down in the box, seeing yellow for his troubles.

    As the game entered its closing stages, Izaguirre did well to evade David Raven down the left, and when his cross was only cleared as far as Bitton, the midfielder’s effort was charged down.

    Commons volleyed over and Tansey came close at the other end as the game remained in the balance.
    It was the champions who finished the strongest, with Armstrong’s low drive testing Esson but a winner would prove elusive and they had to be satisfied with a share of the spoils.   

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Ambrose (Matthews 62), Denayer, van Dijk, Izaguirre; Brown, Bitton; Mackay-Steven (Commons 62), Johansen, Armstrong; Griffiths (Guidetti 78)
    Not Used: Zaluska, Stokes, McGregor, Tierney

    INVERNESS CALEY THISTLE (4-2-3-1) Brill ( Esson 19); Raven, Warren, Meekings, Shinnie; Draper, Tansey; Williams (Vincent 85) Christie (Doran 85) Ofere; Watkins
    Not Used: Ross, Devine, Tremarco, Kink

    Website Man of the Match: Scott Brown

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