CELTIC 3 INVERNESS CALEY THISTLE 0
CELTIC got off to a false start, but picked up the pace and pummelled the gallant Highlanders into submission in a one-sided second-half at Parkhead this afternoon.
Tom Rogic, who got the winner against Aberdeen last week, rolled in number three seven minutes from the end to claim the Hoops’ 42nd goal in 14 domestic games this season.
An average of three goals a game will no doubt satisfy manager Brendan Rodgers, but, in truth, his team could have at least doubled today’s total. They struggled to pick up their rhythm in the opening 45 minutes, but once Scott Sinclair netted the first in the 49th minute there was going to be only one winner.
The entertaining attacker prodded the ball beyond Owain Fon Williams and that was the signal for a Parkhead onslaught against the only Scottish opposition they had failed to beat in this campaign.
It was all over as a contest in the 63rd minute when Leigh Griffiths claimed the second – his ninth of the season – and referee Crawford Allan also sent off Thistle’s thug Greg Tansey for clattering Callum McGregor in the build-up to the goal.
Moussa Demble set it up nicely for his strike-partner with a shot that was pushed away by Fon Williams. Griffiths was swift to react to fire the ball into the inviting net.
And it was Rogic, a second-half substitute for Dembele, who knocked in the third after some nice play between Patrick Roberts and Stuart Armstrong on the right. The champions are now 10 points ahead in their pursuit of their sixth successive title and it is now just a question of who is going to be second.
At the start, Rodgers elected to go with three at the back with Jozo Simonovic flanked by Mikael Lustig and Erik Sviatchenko. However, after only 13 minutes the Hoops boss had to change things around after the Swede limped off.
Emilio Izaguirre went straight to left-back and Armstrong was switched to cover the right flank. The early changes didn’t seem to affect the way Celtic were playing as they pressed play, as usual.
Griffiths, playing up front alongside Dembele, gave the Highlanders a fright when he drilled in a shot in the fifth minute, but it flashed just a yard past the upright.
In the 26th minute, the champions should have broken the Caley Thistle barrier. A left-wing cross from Callum McGregor found Griffiths only six yards from goal.
The comeback Bhoy should have burst the net, but he didn’t connect properly and a relieved Fon Williams managed to get a hand to the ball to flick it onto the crossbar and over. It should have been a goal.
Five minutes from the interval, with Celtic strangely subdued, Armstrong was also presented with another opportunity, but, unfortunately, he, too, couldn’t put the ball in the Thistle net.
Izaguirre flighted over an inviting cross to the back post and the Hoops midfielder arrived just in time, but somehow managed to put the ball wide of the target.
Sinclair had looked dangerous in glimpses and near the end of the first-half he waltzed past three challenges, but thumped his finishing effort over the crossbar.
But he got his angles right shortly after the interval as Rodgers’ men got revenge for their two dropped points in Inverness earlier in the season.
The Hoops should have added to the scoreline, but Armstrong, who otherwise had an excellent game, was wasteful with two opportunities and Nir Bitton also missed when it looked as though he must score.
Scott Brown, who is due to make his Scotland comeback in the World Cup qualifier against England at Wembley on Friday, limped off just on the hour mark to be replaced by Bitton and will be a worry for Gordon Strachan.
However, there are no such problems for a delighted Rodgers as he can enjoy the international break with his side romping away with another Premiership crown.
Sorry for the lack of match photographs for Celtic Quick News today. We have been granted press access at every away ground this season as well as Hampden Park. However we are unable to receive this courtesy of having our photographer at Celtic homes matches this season.
We have raised the matter continually with Celtic FC but have not had the matter explained to us or resolved. It is particularly annoying given the MSM are all given access to the photographer bays and the press box. CQN only asks for a photographer’s pass for Geo. We pay our way into the games and report back with our match reports as we see the match, but never with an anti-Celtic agenda.
Celtic did allow the Rangers (sic) photographer into the 5-1 game against the new club in September. Awfully nice of the club, that was. No access was given to Celtic Quick News for that match, or any other league match this season.
In October CQN had a monthly audience of over 340,000 users and has shown an incredible growth in audience over the past few years.
Is this threatening the MSM and have they had an influence at Celtic Park to deny CQN photography access? We don’t know, they won’t tell us.
And we’ve been asking since July.
Well played Celtic today.
TEAM: Gordon; Lustig (sub: Izaguirre 13), Simunovic, Sviatchenko; Brown (sub: Bitton 61), Armstrong; Roberts, McGregor, Sinclair; Dembele (sub: Rogic 69), Griffiths.