INVERNESS CT 2 CELTIC 2
CELTIC passed up a procession of second-half chances – and blew their 100 per cent Premiership record at the same time in Inverness.
Only gallant keeper Owain Fon Williams stood between Brendan Rodgers’ side and a landslide of goals in a one-way second-half.
He twisted and turned to defy a variety of efforts as the Hoops attempted to add to their 2-1 advantage. However, with two minutes remaining, the unbelievable happened as the league’s bottom team snatched a dramatic leveller that floored the visitors.
Dorus de Vries elected to punch a right-wing cross and the ball came quickly back into the mix. It looked as though the danger had been repelled when a shot was blocked and the ball rebounded to the right. There wasn’t a Celt in sight as it was sent back into the danger zone.
And substitute Alex Fisher, only on the pitch a handful of minutes, was the first to react to leap and divert a header beyond the scrambling De Vries into the far corner.
It was the most incredible anti-climax against a team that had been on the ropes throughout the second 45 minutes, but, unfortunately, the champions just couldn’t get that third goal that would surely have made certain of the win the team needed after last week’s Barcelona battering.
There was no sign of a shock on the horizon and new Bhoy Cristian Gamboa might have scored in the eighth minute with an angled drive that zipped just wide of target.
Nine minutes later, Celtic made the breakthrough when Erik Sviatchenko picked out the rampaging Kieran Tierney, who had a stormer of a game, racing clear on the left.
He hit a peach of a pass off the inside of his left boot to Tom Rogic and he nonchalantly swept an eight-yard effort beyond the helpless Fon Williams.
However, in the 28th minute the Inverness fans were celebrating when they levelled the confrontation with a disturbingly easy counter.
Billy King drove at Gamboa, nicked inside onto his right foot far too easily and fired a 20-yarder at goal. De Vries got a touch on the ball, but couldn’t prevent it hammering into the far corner.
Three minutes later, there was another uncomfortable moment when Callum McGregor, who struggled to keep up with the pace, was too casual with a crossfield pass. It was intercepted by Ross Draper who galloped towards De Vries before he was halted in his tracks by Sviatchecnko.
The home side claimed a penalty-kick, but referee Don Robertson was having none of it and waved play on.
In the 34th minute, the Hoops took the lead again with an excellent solo goal from Scott Sinclair who picked up the ball in his own half and just took off on a mesmerising run towards Fon Williams.
Moussa Dembele acted as a decoy with a run that took away a swarm of defenders and the exciting attacker continued on his way before finishing with a curling ball wide of the keeper.
Celtic came out in determined fashion after the interval and there was absolutely no way anyone would have believed the script that lay ahead.
Four minutes after the break, Dembele powered in one from the edge of the box that was held by Fon Williams at full stretch to his left.
Five minutes later the goalie pushed a Tierney piledriver over the bar and in the 56th minute Rogic and Dembele combined to set up McGregor whose shot was diverted onto the crossbar and over.
In the 67th minute, Fon Williams threw himself to his right to push away an awkward 25-yard free-kick from Rogic and, only moments later, he touched a drive from Sinclair over the bar.
Jozo Simunovic made his first appearance of the season in the 68th minute when he came on for the tiring Gamboa. Mikael Lustig moved to the right to accommodate him in a central berth beside Sviatchchenko.
Four minutes later, Lustig hung up a cross from the left and Sviatchenko was out of luck with a downward header that struck the base of the post and was hastily cleared.
Patrick Roberts, who had been the subject of a few crude challenges from the Thistle defenders, then made way for James Forrest and in the 77th minute McGregor tried a delicate chip towards the top corner that was pushed away by Fon Williams.
Six minutes from the end, Tierney powered in from the left to blitz a ferocious angled left-foot drive that beat the keeper, but the ball hit the face of the bar and whizzed off to safety.
Stuart Armstrong came on for Rogic in the 85th minute and had the chance to put the game to bed when he was presented with a chance eight yards out, but his finishing effort was wayward.
Three minutes later, Celtic paid a heavy penalty for not getting that crucial third goal.
There was a lesson in the Nou Camp on Tuesday. There was another learned in the vastly different surrounding of the Tulloch Stadium.
The game isn’t over until that final whistle!
TEAM: De Vries; Gamboa (sub: Simunovic 68), Lustig, Sviatchenko, Tierney; Brown, McGregor; Roberts (sub: Forrest 75), Rogic (sub: Armstrong 85), Sinclair; Dembele.