Leigh Griffiths grabbed a double as Celtic extended their lead over Aberdeen at the top of the Scottish Premiership to six points with a 3-0 defeat of Inverness Caledonian Thistle at Parkhead on Saturday.
Celtic had to wait until the 53rd minute to open the scoring thanks to a deflected Gary Mackay-Steven strike, and Griffiths added two more to take his tally for the season to 32 goals.
The result, Celtic’s fifth consecutive home win, gives Ronny Deila’s side some breathing space between themselves and Aberdeen, whose game with Partick Thistle on Friday was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch at Firhill.
“In the first half we didn’t create enough and we were too slow,” the Celtic manager said.
“But in the second half we were more direct and got them on the back foot and got more chances.”
Meanwhile, Inverness manager John Hughes, the former Celtic defender, said his players had given their all in defeat.
“I felt our shape was very good and we gave as good as we got in the first half,” said Hughes, whose side had lost only one of their previous 11 games, including beating Aberdeen 3-1 in the Highlands on Monday.
“I told them not to get complacent so to lose a goal 10 minutes into the second half was bitterly disappointing but it was the second goal that killed us.”
After a cagey start it was Inverness who threatened first with defender Gary Warren somehow heading wide with the goal gaping after Celtic ‘keeper Craig Gordon had failed to deal with an Iain Vigurs free-kick.
Moments later Griffiths’ strike from outside the box was spilled by Owain Fon Williams after it bounced awkwardly in front of him but the Inverness defense cleared the danger.
The home crowd then breathed a sigh of relief when Ross Draper’s deflected shot whistled inches wide as Inverness came close to an opener.
– Explosive –
What the first half lacked in action the second half made amends for with an explosive start.
Once again it was Inverness who blew a golden chance to take the lead when Jordan Roberts beat Erik Sviatchenko for pace to race in on goal but the striker saw his strike blocked by the out-rushing Gordon.
The visitors were left to rue that miss in the 53rd minute when Mackay-Steven gave Celtic the lead with a deflected strike from the edge of the box after some good build-up play.
Inverness barely had time to regroup when Griffiths doubled Celtic’s advantage in the 59th minute.
The Scotland striker showed some good touches to make room for himself in the box before lashing an angled strike into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.
The two-goal cushion allowed Deila to throw on teenager Ryan Christie to face his former side while on-loan Manchester City player Patrick Roberts was handed his Celtic debut.
With the match deep in stoppage time Griffiths nabbed his second of the match with a low shot into the bottom left-hand corner to finish a sweeping move.
Elsewhere, Dundee United claimed a vital 2-1 victory over Hearts at Tannadice thanks to a late Paul Paton winner, although the Tangerines remain a huge 11 points adrift at the bottom from Kilmarnock, who were held to a goalless draw by Dundee.
Ian McShane got the winner as fourth-placed Ross County beat Hamilton Academical 2-1 while Tam Scobbie struck late to give St Johnstone a 2-1 win at home to Motherwell.
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