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  • Celtic return to winning ways in the Highlands

    Celtic return to winning ways in the Highlands

    By: Mark Henderson on 29 Nov, 2015 14:20

  • Scottish Premiership
    Sunday, November 29, 2015
    Tulloch Caledonian Stadium

    (Storey 39)

    (McGregor 7, Griffiths 59, Devine o.g. 85)

    LEIGH Griffiths’ second-half strike and a late own goal from Danny Devine saw Celtic earn a hard-fought win in the Highlands over Inverness Caley Thistle to extend their league at the top of the table to seven points.

    Callum McGregor’s early opener had been cancelled out by Miles Storey before half-time, but Griffiths put the Hoops back in the driving seat with his 19th goal of the season.

    As the game entered its closing stages, debutant Carlton Cole, on as a second-half substitute, was first to the rebound when Griffiths’ rasping drive had been parried by goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams, with the ball eventually trickling into the net off the unfortunate Devine.

    It wasn’t the prettiest of goals, but that would have mattered little to the jubilant travelling support or Ronny Deila, who will be satisfied to see his side bounce back to winning ways after the UEFA Europa League defeat to Ajax on Thursday night and last weekend’s draw with Kilmarnock.  

    Nir Bitton and Stefan Johansen returned to the starting XI, having been suspended for meeting with the Dutch giants, the manager’s only two changes from the team that took on the Amsterdam outfit.  

    After impressing and scoring against Ajax, McGregor retained his place in midfield, and the 22-year-old justified his re-selection when he opened the scoring in the seventh minute with an exquisite finish.

    Bursting through the middle following a swift counter Celtic attack, he took aim from 25 yards and sent a crisp shot into the far corner beyond Fon Williams, much to the delight of the Hoops faithful, who had endured a long journey north in treacherous weather.

    However, the home side almost restored parity within a few minutes as Gary Warren headed a corner powerfully on target but, thankfully for the Hoops, it smashed straight into the chest of Craig Gordon. The loose ball was collected by Josh Meekings, who curled wide of the far post.

    From a dead-ball delivery at the other end, Mikael Lustig then spurned the chance to increase Celtic’s advantage as he headed over when in space from McGregor’s corner.

    With a swirling wind and difficult underfoot conditions, set-pieces looked the most likely route for profit for both teams. Gordon had to punch clear a couple of threatening corners, before Jozo Simunovic looped a header over from Stuart Armstrong’s cross.

    Aside from that, there were little chances of note for the Bhoys until Griffiths suddenly burst to life in the box, cutting inside onto his trusty left-foot from the right, but Warren was over quickly to charge his shot down.

    As half-time approached John Hughes’ side restored parity. Liam Polworth released Storey and his pace took him clear of Dedryck Boyata and Jozo Simunoivic. Although Gordon saved the forward’s initial effort, he slotted home the rebound.

    Bitton almost restored the champions’ advantage just before the break, his dipping drive from distance flashing wide, leaving the match evenly poised as the second half got underway.

    Although Ronny Deila’s side were having the bulk of possession, it was the Caley Jags who had first sight of goal when Ross Draper guided a header wide moments after Kieran Tierney had blocked James Vincent’s shot.

    But, with Celtic struggling to fashion openings, Griffiths underlined his predatory instincts by putting the Hoops back in front with a close-range clinical finish. Substitute Scott Allan released Tierney on the left and his cut-back was met first-time by the striker on the six-yard line, and he made no mistake.

    Carlton Cole then entered the fray in place of Tom Rogic to make his Celtic bow and the new Bhoy almost had the dream start, his downward header from McGregor’s cross being tipped over the bar by Fon Williams.  

    Celtic were defending resolutely, comfortably repelling the home side’s advances as they sought a second leveller, though Johansen had to be alert to clear a corner off the line after it had ricocheted off Mikael Lustig.

    And Devine’s own goal, with Cole heavily involved, allowed them to see out the closing minutes with comfort and bank maximum reward.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Lustig, Boyata, Simunovic, Tierney; Bitton, Johansen; McGregor, Rogic (Cole 60) Armstrong (Allan 55); Griffiths (Mackay-Steven 90+1)
    Not Used: Bailly, Izaguirre, Ambrose, Ciftci

    INVERNESS CALEY THISTLE (4-2-3-1) Fon Williams; Meekings, Warren, Devine, Williams; Tansey, Draper; Polworth, Vincent (Sho-Silva 74), Vigurs (Mutombo 74); Storey
    Not Used: Esson, Raven, Wedderburn, Horner,

    Website Man of the Match: Jozo Simunovic

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