Celtic won a hard-fought three points at Inverness this afternoon despite spending the majority of the game looking for rhythm. Inverness looked strong at the back in the early stages and were as physical as Neil Lennon would expect them to be. Both goalkeepers had a single genuine attempt to deal with in the first half; Jonny Hayes forced Fraser Forster to dive low to his right to block a shot, while Anthony Stokes couldn’t get the ball out from under his feet to do better than lob his shot directly at Ryan Esson in the Inverness goal.
Beram Kayal was booked for a needless challenge 30 yards from the Inverness goal near the 30 minute mark but two minutes later Celtic created their best chance of the first half when Hooper, Forrest and Stokes all had attempts in a goalmouth scramble.
The biggest incident of the game occurred after 36 minutes when Greg Tansey was shown a straight red card by referee Stevie O’Reilly when he jumped and put a hand into Georgios Samaras’ face. Samaras clearly took a sore one but a yellow card would not have been an inappropriate decision. Ironically, just a few moments before Tansey’s ordering off, one of the assistant referees jumped to avoid getting involved in play, raising both hands and causing some confusion as his flag was inadvertently pushed into the air.
It took Celtic a long time to make the extra man pay but Ki fed James Forrest on 60 minutes, who played a one-two-three with Gary Hooper. Hooper drew Esson from his goal before squaring a pass to Stokes who knocked the ball into the empty net.
Celtic then created a flurry of chances. Forrest beat his man and fed Stokes on the left but the striker couldn’t find space to get a clean shot away. From the resulting corner Kayal released Stokes who tried to chip Esson instead of squaring for Hooper.
On 72 minutes Hooper fed Forrest, who beat his marker but his shot was blocked and spun into the air. Stokes allowed the ball to bounce before volleying into the bottom corner to secure the points for Celtic.
Despite being two goals and a man down Inverness continued to press Celtic. Foran fell in the Celtic box under pressure from Ledley. Shinnie made the most of an awkward ball by splitting Manstorovic and Ledley but could not get space for a shot.
Neil Lennon replaced El Kaddouri, who had been booked, with Paddy McCourt, which settled Celtic. McCourt allowed Celtic to hold the ball and acquire some composure.