Scottish Premiership
Inverness CT0Celtic4

Inverness Caledonian Thistle 0-4 Celtic

Scott Sinclair curls in the opener for Celtic
Scott Sinclair curled in his 17th goal of the season just before half-time

Celtic cruised to their 22nd straight Scottish Premiership victory to move 27 points clear at the top and within seven points of a sixth straight title.

Celtic dominated possession but had to wait until the 43rd minute before Scott Sinclair curled home a superb opener.

Their second came 12 seconds into the second half, Moussa Dembele tapping in after a howler from Owain Fon Williams.

Stuart Armstrong's whipped free-kick then beat the Welshman at his near post before Dembele chipped in his second.

It was the Frenchman's 31st goal of a stellar debut season, and his 11th in five games.

With a 27-point lead over Aberdeen with 11 games left and a huge advantage in goal difference, two more wins would effectively be enough for Celtic to retain their title.

Defeat left Caley Thistle two points adrift of Motherwell and Hamilton at the bottom.

Celtic's one 'blemish' of their entire Premiership season had come at the Caledonian Stadium way back in September, when Inverness emerged with a precious point from a 2-2 draw, despite a dominant display from the visitors.

This match followed a similar pattern initially, the champions-elect enjoying the majority of possession as they regularly manoeuvred themselves behind Caley lines, only to be repelled by the hosts' defensive resolve.

Dembele, who scored a Scottish Cup hat-trick against the same opponents last month, had a couple of early sighters; his first from a tight angle brought a comfortable save from Fon Williams, while a snap-shot from 20 yards was also easy meat for the Caley keeper.

Stuart Armstrong celebrates his goal for Celtic
Stuart Armstrong became the fifth Celtic player this season to reach double figures in goals

Gary Mackay-Steven, back in the side for the unfit James Forrest, forced the home keeper into further action with a left-foot drive that he did well to beat away for a corner.

The hosts had the odd glimpse of goal themselves, Liam Polworth with a speculative early long-ranger, while Billy Mckay cut in from the right but his left-foot shot barely troubled Craig Gordon.

With two minutes of the first half remaining, the hosts would have been congratulating themselves on a job well done.

But Sinclair showed strength to ride Ross Draper's challenge and then sublime skill to unleash a powerful 25-yarder curling beyond the reach of Fon Williams into the right corner.

If that goal was a thing of beauty, Celtic's second was pure comedy.

Inverness kicked off the second half but Gary Warren's slack back-pass was immediately intercepted by the alert Dembele, whose touch was too heavy to capitalise.

But Fon Williams made a horrendous mess of his clearing kick, slicing it up in the air. Dembele tried to hook the high ball left-footed over the keeper, but had time to readjust and meet the dropping ball with a simple right-footed finish.

That effectively settled the contest, and Sinclair should have scored again in the 51st minute after a powerful run and precise pass from Dembele, but the winger could only fire wildly over.

Moussa Dembele scores his second goal against Inverness
Dembele scored his second goal, and 31st of the season, with an exquisite finish

It mattered not. Armstrong, showing more of the form that could lead to a Scotland call-up in the next few weeks, fired in a superb free-kick from 25 yards for his 10th goal of a highly productive season, though Fon Williams had cause to look at his positioning.

Caley rallied briefly, Polworth warming Gordon's palms with a dipping volley that the Celtic keeper tipped over.

But moments later it was all over, Dembele racing away onto Kieran Tierney's excellent pass and caressing the ball over the advancing Fon Williams with a delicate chip.

The visitors - now unbeaten in 33 domestic games - might have added further to their tally, but Sinclair scuffed his effort wide when sent through on goal late on.

Post-match reaction:

Caley boss Richie Foran: "It's extremely disappointing. We lacked courage on the ball, we lacked belief on the ball. I'm not even sure Celtic got out of second gear. We never got going.

Media playback is not supported on this device

Celtic were outstanding, says Rodgers

"I find it hard to think of a player that did well. The whole 11 lacked courage. Off the ball we were OK; on the ball we didn't want to pass forward and take responsibility.

"On the counter we had the ability but we didn't have the belief to go with it. It doesn't matter how good Celtic were. We had opportunities to play and get forward but we didn't fancy it.

"The second goal was comical. It's embarrassing. But we were poor all over the park. At least three of the goals we conceded were avoidable."

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers: "It was an outstanding team performance. Collectively we defended very well and it was probably one of the most complete performances since I have been here.

"It is how I want the team to play - defensively very compact, hunting in packs, giving little space to the opponent and when we had the ball, attacking with fluidity and a goal threat.

Celtic's top scorers this season
Moussa Dembele 31 goals in 43 games
Scott Sinclair 17 goals in 36 games
Leigh Griffiths 13 goals in 27 games
Tom Rogic 10 goals in 27 games
Stuart Armstrong 10 goals in 34 games

"The work ethic typified the mentality of the team, with hunger and pressure from the front. That is why we have kept so many clean sheets.

"The plan coming in was to have more goal-scorers in the squad. Young Leigh (Griffiths) was outstanding last season, getting 40, and only Tom Rogic got near him with 10. But the way I like my team to play means we have an attacking threat from all areas of the team."

Line-ups

Inverness CT

  • 25Fon Williams
  • 22McKay
  • 21LaingBooked at 65mins
  • 5Warren
  • 2Raven
  • 8Draper
  • 16Tansey
  • 20King
  • 29ColeSubstituted forVigursat 64'minutes
  • 7Polworth
  • 13MckaySubstituted forAnierat 81'minutes

Substitutes

  • 4McNaughton
  • 9Ebbe
  • 11Vigurs
  • 18Fisher
  • 19Boden
  • 23Anier
  • 42Hoban

Celtic

  • 1Gordon
  • 23Lustig
  • 20Boyata
  • 28Sviatchenko
  • 63Tierney
  • 8BrownSubstituted forHendersonat 78'minutes
  • 6Bitton
  • 16Mackay-StevenSubstituted forMcGregorat 69'minutes
  • 14Armstrong
  • 11Sinclair
  • 10Dembele

Substitutes

  • 2K Touré
  • 3Izaguirre
  • 9Griffiths
  • 12Gamboa
  • 24de Vries
  • 42McGregor
  • 53Henderson
Referee:
Andrew Dallas
Attendance:
5,948

Match Stats

Home TeamInverness CTAway TeamCeltic
Possession
Home34%
Away66%
Shots
Home3
Away21
Shots on Target
Home2
Away9
Corners
Home1
Away6
Fouls
Home13
Away14

Live Text

Match ends, Inverness CT 0, Celtic 4.

Full Time

Second Half ends, Inverness CT 0, Celtic 4.

Foul by Nir Bitton (Celtic).

Iain Vigurs (Inverness CT) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Attempt missed. Callum McGregor (Celtic) left footed shot from the centre of the box is too high.

Foul by Nir Bitton (Celtic).

Ross Draper (Inverness CT) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Attempt missed. Scott Sinclair (Celtic) left footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left.

Erik Sviatchenko (Celtic) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Henri Anier (Inverness CT).

Mikael Lustig (Celtic) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Brad McKay (Inverness CT).

Attempt missed. Moussa Dembele (Celtic) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the right.

Substitution

Substitution, Inverness CT. Henri Anier replaces Billy McKay.

Foul by Callum McGregor (Celtic).

Liam Polworth (Inverness CT) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Substitution

Substitution, Celtic. Liam Henderson replaces Scott Brown.

Foul by Nir Bitton (Celtic).

Iain Vigurs (Inverness CT) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Goal!

Goal! Inverness CT 0, Celtic 4. Moussa Dembele (Celtic) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the centre of the goal. Assisted by Kieran Tierney.

Corner, Inverness CT. Conceded by Craig Gordon.

Attempt saved. Liam Polworth (Inverness CT) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top left corner.

Substitution

Substitution, Celtic. Callum McGregor replaces Gary Mackay-Steven.

Attempt missed. Scott Sinclair (Celtic) left footed shot from a difficult angle on the left is close, but misses to the left.

Scott Brown (Celtic) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Iain Vigurs (Inverness CT).

Goal!

Goal! Inverness CT 0, Celtic 3. Stuart Armstrong (Celtic) from a free kick with a right footed shot to the top left corner.

Booking

Louis Laing (Inverness CT) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Moussa Dembele (Celtic) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Louis Laing (Inverness CT).

Substitution

Substitution, Inverness CT. Iain Vigurs replaces Larnell Cole.

Stuart Armstrong (Celtic) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Billy McKay (Inverness CT).

Mikael Lustig (Celtic) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Billy McKay (Inverness CT).

Attempt missed. Mikael Lustig (Celtic) right footed shot from outside the box is too high.

Foul by Nir Bitton (Celtic).

Billy King (Inverness CT) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Scott Brown (Celtic).

Greg Tansey (Inverness CT) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

goal

As It Stood

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Celtic27261073165779
2Aberdeen27164750242652
3Rangers2713773732546
4Hearts27108946351138
5St Johnstone27107103536-137
6Partick Thistle2788112932-332
7Dundee2786133137-630
8Kilmarnock26610102441-1728
9Ross County2769122945-1627
10Hamilton27412112639-1324
11Motherwell2666143053-2324
12Inverness CT27410133151-2022
View full Scottish Premiership table

Top Stories