Glasgow (AFP) – Celtic extended their lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership to 27 points as they eased to a 4-0 victory at bottom of the table Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
A superb strike from Scott Sinclair fired Celtic in front just before the break before a horrendous mistake from Inverness goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams allowed in-form French striker Moussa Dembele to make it 2-0 just 11 seconds into the second half.
Stuart Armstrong then curled in a free-kick before Dembele grabbed his 31st goal of a prolific season to seal Celtic’s 22nd consecutive victory since Inverness became the only team to take points off the Glasgow giants this season following a 2-2 draw back in September.
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers hailed an outstanding team performance from his side, who are now just seven points away from a sixth successive title.
“That’s how I want the team to play. We defended in pacts and hunted the ball, giving very little space to opponents to create any chances,” Rodgers said.
“Then when we had the ball we played with charisma and fluidity and were a threat on goal.”
Rivals Rangers reduced the gap on second-placed Aberdeen, who lost 1-0 to Hamilton on Tuesday, to six points following their 3-2 win over St Johnstone which ended a run of four games without victory.
Just as they did against Hamilton on Saturday, Celtic had to bide their time against an organised defence and it took another moment of magic to give them the lead in the 43rd minute.
Sinclair collected the ball 25 yards out and superbly stayed on his feet following a challenge from Ross Draper before sending a curling dipping shot into the bottom right-hand corner of the net leaving Fon Williams with no chance.
The Inverness keeper made a horrific start to the second half as he handed Celtic their second goal on a plate 11 seconds after the restart.
Inverness gave the ball away with their second touch after the kick-off but Dembele’s touch was heavy and Gary Warren played the ball back to Fon Williams.
However, the ‘keeper made a complete hash of his attempted clearance and Dembele juggled the loose ball over his head before calmly volleying in from a couple of yards out to score for the fifth successive game.
The striker then showed great skill to power his way past three Inverness defenders before releasing Sinclair, who fired a shot just over.
Celtic weren’t to be denied for long and had a third in the 66th minute from a stunning free-kick from Armstrong. Fon Williams was caught napping as the Scottish midfielder curled in a powerful effort from the left-edge of the box that beat the ‘keeper at his near post.
Dembele, who grabbed a hat-trick in the 6-0 Scottish Cup win over Inverness just 18 days ago, helped himself to his second of the match in the 73rd minute.
The French under-21 international beat the off-side trap to race on to Kieran Tierney’s lofted pass and lift the ball over the out-rushing Fon William for his 11th goal in his past five matches.
Inverness manager Richie Foran gave a damning indictment of his side’s performance.
“We lacked courage and belief. We just didn’t turn up tonight and we probably lost the game before we even started for some players,” Foran said.
“I’m not even sure Celtic got out of second gear.”
Elsewhere, Ross County defeated Hearts 1-0 at Tynecastle that leaves Jambos’ boss Ian Cathro with just four wins in 15 matches.