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  • Five-star Champions sign off in style

    Five-star Champions sign off in style

    By: Mark Henderson on 24 May, 2015 14:57

  • Scottish Premiership
    Celtic Park, Glasgow
    Sunday, May 24, 2015

    (Scepovic  5, 70 Johansen 18, Griffiths 80, Commons 89)


    CELTIC signed off their season in style, thumping Inverness Caley Thistle 5-0 on the day that Paradise celebrated a fourth successive title triumph.

    Stefan Scepovic bagged a brace on his first start in nearly six months, book-ending Stefan Johansen’s 13th goal of the season as the Hoops played with the authority of champions.

    Clinical finishes from substitutes Leigh Griffiths and Kris Commons sealed the victory in the final 10 minutes as the volume was cranked up ahead of the post-match trophy presentation.

    And after Ronny Deila and Scott Brown addressed the Hoops faithful on the pitch, thanking them for their brilliant backing throughout the campaign, former Celt Harald Brattbakk – given a hero’s welcome on his return to Celtic Park - handed the silverware over to the skipper to get the title party into full swing.

    The inclusion of Scepovic was one of six changes to the team that drew with St Johnstone last Friday night. Craig Gordon, Virgil van Dijk, Emilio Izaguirre, Nir Bitton and Johansen were also restored to the side, with Lukasz Zaluska, Efe Ambrose, Kieran Tierney,Commons, Gary Mackay-Steven and Griffiths dropping out.

    It only took Scepovic five minutes to make his mark on the contest as he opened the scoring amid some confusion.

    Liam Polworth was penalised for pulling back Johansen down the right. The Norwegian swung the resultant free-kick towards the back post, and it was headed back across goal by Virgil van Dijk. Both Nir Bitton and Scepovic were on hand to apply the finish, but it was the latter who got the decisive touch.

    Greeted by a Guard of Honour from the visitors, and roared on by a bumper crowd, Celtic had started with gusto and they almost quickly doubled their advantage as Izaguirre’s cross was headed towards his own goal by an Inverness defender, whose blushes were spared by Carl Tremarco on the line.

    After Tarmo Kink had fired wide for the Highlanders on a rare foray forward, the Hoops launched a swift breakaway, culminating in Scepovic’s first-time shot being blocked by Ryan Esson.

    It was one-way traffic as the hosts offered up some vibrant, flowing football, typified by a flowing move down the left in the 16th minute.

    After a swift exchange of passes, Brown set Izaguirre scampering into the box with a deft back-heel, and the Honduran’s centre was inches away from the lurking Scepovic.

    A similar move, moments later, proved more profitable. Again, the enterprising Izaguirre burst into the box, and his precise cutback was swept into the corner by Johansen.

    The Bhoys continued to probe for further reward, forcing the beleaguered visitors into some desperate defending as a series of crosses flew into the box from either flank, with Adam Matthews and Izaguirre prominent.

    And it took some unconventional – and illegal – defending to prevent Celtic adding a third. Having collected a corner, Bittton scooped the ball back into the mix, which van Dijk headed towards goal. But the outstretched arm of Danny Williams diverted the ball beyond the post. However, referee Kevin Clancy missed the offence.

    Maintaining their dominance either side of half-time, it only seemed a matter of time before Ronny Deila’s men added to their tally.

    The clearest opening in this period came the way of Armstrong but the former Dundee United man couldn’t keep his shot down after connecting with James Forrest’s cutback.

    The pace of proceedings dipped as Celtic knocked the ball around in the May sunshine and Inverness defended in depth.

    However, the match exploded into life again in the 70th minute as Scepovic grabbed his second of the game. Johansen found Forrest in the box with a precise pass and the winger’s low delivery was met by Scepovic, who made no mistake.

    That was the signal for the home crowd to crank up the volume once again, and they had further reason to cheer as substitute Griffiths inflicted further punishment on the visitors, drilling a shot into the far corner just minutes after entering the fray.

    With just seconds remaining on the clock, Commons ensured Celtic finished, fiitingly, with a flourish. Izaguirre drove forward with purpose and picked out the attacker on the edge of the area. He took a touch and then rifled a right-foot shot beyond Esson.

    It was the perfect prelude to the much-awaited trophy presentation, started by Stevie Frail's victorious Youth Cup final squad, as the manager and the players took the salute of the crowd to bring another successful season to a close for the Scottish Champions.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Matthews (Mulgrew 68), Denayer, van Dijk, Izaguirre; Brown, Bitton; Forrest, Johansen, Armstrong (Commons 68); Scepovic
    Not Used: Zaluska, Ambrose, Stokes, Mackay-Steven

    INVERNESS CALEY THISTLE (4-3-3) Esson; Horner, Warren, Devine, Tremarco; Vincent, Polworth, Williams; Christie (Doran 62), Kink (Sutherland 75) Ross
    Not Used: Mackay, Brown, Watkins

    Website Man of the Match: Nir Bitton

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