Official Match Report
Celtic Park, Glasgow
Saturday, March 1, 2014
(Griffiths 11, 57, 86; Mulgrew 22, Commons 78)
INVERNESS CALEY THISTLE…0
LEIGH Griffiths struck his first Celtic hat-trick as the champions equalled their highest margin of victory in the league this season against Inverness Caley Thistle.
The new Bhoy showed just why Neil Lennon had been so keen to bring him to Paradise with a Man-of-the-Match performance, opening the scoring after 11 minutes and adding two more in the second-half with a pair of deadly finishes.
Charlie Mulgrew and Kris Commons with his 23rd goal of the season were the other scorers as the Hoops returned to winning ways in emphatic style following their first league defeat of the season on Tuesday against Aberdeen.
Almost 20 years to the day that Fergus McCann saved Celtic and began laying the foundations that restored them as a footballing force, the club celebrated his achievements in Paradise.
Prior to kick off, fans in the Family Stand got a chance to view a mini Celtic history exhibition, which included a scale model of Paradise.
And just before the game got underway, former Celtic Chairman Brian Quinn addressed the crowd from the pitch, describing the importance of Fergus´ achievements before donning a ´Fergus´ bunnet to great cheers.
The manager had made change to the Celtic team that went down fighting to Aberdeen on Tuesday night, bringing to an end the team´s 26-game unbeaten league record.
James Forrest, who scored in the 2-1 defeat to the Dons after coming on as substitute, was restored to the side at the expense of Kris Commons, the 30-year-old named among the substitutes.
And Celtic looked determined to make amends for the loss at Pittodrie as they took the game to the visitors from the first whistle.
Anthony Stokes and James Forrest had already tried their luck within the opening 10 minutes before Griffiths grabbed his first goal at Celtic Park to break the deadlock.
The striker was first to Emilio Izaguirre´s inviting cross from the left, and he managed to divert it home at the near post despite Dean Brill´s best attempts.
After van Dijk and Izaguirre had both been off target with ambitious efforts, the Hoops doubled their advantage through a well-worked goal from Mulgrew.
Griffiths flighted a low corner towards the near post and, in what looked a pre-rehearsed move, the Hoops´ utility man expertly flicked it into the net.
The Champions were in complete control of proceedings but the visitors mounted a rare counter-attack in 28th minute, and Richie Foran should probably have done better than blaze over from Graeme Shinnie´s low cross.
However, with the impressive Griffiths causing consternation in the Highlanders´ defence with his pace and movement, Celtic soon resumed the offensive.
Mulgrew´s powerful drive was blocked by Gary Warren, and then Brill made a brilliant block from Stokes´ first-time shot after he had been teed-up by Mulgrew.
As a half-time approached, after a superb passage of play, Scott Brown crossed from the right, Griffiths flicked it on and Mulgrew fired straight at Brill with his weaker right foot.
Celtic continued from where they left off after the interval. Griffiths spurned a golden chance for number three, lofting a shot wide of the post after fastening on to Nir Biton´s wonderful through pass.
John Hughes´ men were showing more ambition, though, and top scorer Billy McKay got his first sight of goal but could only shoot straight at Fraser Forster.
But within two minutes, they found themselves further behind as Griffiths bagged his brace in stunning style. Seizing on hesitant defending from Warren and David Raven, the Hoops hitman won back possession before sending a ferocious shot into the net via the inside of the post.
Despite the hopelessness of their task, spiritedly, the visitors continued to search for a route back into the contest – Forster blocked from McKay and van Dijk made a last-gasp block to deny Foran.
But they should have been punished on the break as Griffiths missed a gilt-edged opportunity for his hat-trick. The Scottish internationalist and Stokes had a two-on-one situation as they drove towards the box, and after they had exchanged a series of return passes, Griffiths blasted over from close-range.
Undeterred, Celtic continued in their pursuit of further goals. Forrest saw a cross cannon off the bar and then brought out an excellent save from Brill, before Griffiths skimmed the outside of the post after excellent work from Commons.
And with 12 minutes remaining, Commons finally broke Inverness´ resistance once again as his long-range effort deceived Brill and trickled over the line.
The Inverness shot-stopper atoned for that mistake with quick-fire saves from Forrest and Commons.
But it wasn´t long before he was picking the ball out of the net again as Griffiths claimed a deserved hat-trick. Commons sent the 23-year-old scampering clear and he coolly found the far corner.
Forrest could have made it 6-0 in stoppage time from substitute Darnell Fisher´s cutback as the Bhoys finished with a flourish to edge ever closer to sealing their third successive title.
CELTIC (4-4-2) Forster; Matthews (Fisher 80), Ambrose, Van Dijk, Izaguirre; Forrest, Brown (Johansen 86), Biton, Mulgrew; Stokes (Commons 66), Griffiths
Not Used: Zaluska, Samaras, Boerrigter, Kayal
INVERNESS CALEY THISTLE (4-4-1-1) Brill; Raven, Warren (Devine 68), Meekings, Shinnie; Vincent, Draper (Watkins 68), Tansey, Ross; Foran; McKay (Christie 80)
Not Used: Esson, Tremarco, Polworth, Pepper
Website Man of the Match: Leigh Griffiths
Neil lennon must be due a massive pat on the back,for the foresight to bring leigh griffith to Celtic…he stayed the course and got his man….often when a new striker hits the ground running like griffith s has done its easy to get carried away as a fan,i often find the players who score early on in there celtic career become big time players…
The best way to kickstart things is score and keep on scoring,commons banged in most of the goals prior to griffths arrival …but it must be refreshing to commons to know that there a targetman now,olso stokes has already showed a new hunger in his game and i think he can form a very good partnership with griffths…
all in the frontline looks very potent and finnally i think we have our replacement to gary hooper,like i said earlier as a fan its easy to pour praise on a new striker who just looks the part..this team from back to front is developing nicely ,in forster you have a assured and solid keeper ,who deserved his england call up,ambrose and van dyk are really solid in the centre of defence as well,but the player whos showing the most promise is Nir biton,in the last half dozen games this kid has just bossed the midfeild..i think this is another midfeild gem,and the backroom staff have to be applauded for uncovering talent like that…………..
There s now 10 games remaining in whats been a decent season,ok the cups werent to great but id take the title every season and a cup as a bonus,so for me personally im very satasfied where the clubs going..like ive said in a previous post,the buisness model at the club is excellent ,the youth setup and facilitys are second to none,finances are good,and the redevelopments in and around the stadium will further enhance celtics standing in world football,on the park the product is improving and ever evolving….
of course ther will be fans who still arent happy,it depends on what you expect from your team ,we are one team of many and its always been my moto that we should never expect to win all the time and become complacent..leave that to history and rangers fc deceased 1873-2012…they thought they were above all others and where did they end up,i see a bright future for our football club…
Hail Hail And God Bless….
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