Match ends, Celtic 3, Inverness CT 0.
Scottish Premiership: Celtic 3-0 Inverness CT
Celtic survived a real test against Inverness Caledonian Thistle to move six points clear at the top of the Scottish Premiership.
The visitors to Celtic Park wasted three excellent chances before Gary Mackay-Steven opened the scoring after half-time.
Leigh Griffiths added the second within the space of five minutes.
Griffiths fired a third late on. It was the Scotland striker's 32nd goal of an increasingly impressive season.
For Celtic, a stressful day ended happily with an important win and the sight of Patrick Roberts, their loan signing from Manchester City, making a bright debut.
Celtic finished the match with a convincing attacking midfield trio of Scott Allan, Ryan Christie and Roberts. The three of them combined to set up Griffiths, who rifled home in typically ruthless fashion.
Caley Thistle have made strides in the last few months, moving from ninth in the Premiership in mid-December to sixth before this game on the back of an impressive run.
In fairness, they took their confidence with them on the road south. The only problem was that they left their finishing power behind.
John Hughes' team played some terrific stuff and caused Celtic an amount of trouble before the champions found themselves,
Their profligacy was terminal and it started as early as the 18th minute, when an Iain Vigurs free-kick on the left was completely missed by Craig Gordon.
Standing alone behind the goalkeeper was Gary Warren, who duly missed the target with a header that could comfortably be described as a sitter.
Celtic huffed and puffed, but the best moments all belonged to Inverness.
Just after the half-hour, they had a breakaway and a four-on-two with the Celtic defence. They butchered the moment through their own indecision and the marvellous work-rate of Griffiths, who made the key intervention in his own penalty area.
There was a restless mood inside the stadium. Celtic's attacking midfield trio of Stuart Armstrong, Stefan Johansen and Mackay-Steven were passive and error-prone and their supporters were not slow in telling them.
Boos rang out at the break and, within three minutes of the restart, Inverness were in again. It was another counter-attack, after Mackay-Steven had been hustled off the ball.
Jordan Roberts went by the one-paced Erik Sviatchenko with a gob-smacking ease, but his effort was weak and Gordon dealt with it.
That was the sliding doors moment for the visitors. Within 11 minutes, Celtic had scored twice and the game was up.
In those moments, Hughes, standing motionless on the touchline, must have pondered football's capacity to inflict pain.
Mackay-Steven scored the first after Inverness took too long to get rid of a loose ball, the midfielder snapping his shot past goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams.
Then it was Griffiths - unsurprisingly - who added a second when he went on a diagonal run across the Inverness penalty area and then fired across Fon Williams and into the corner of his net.
Celtic bossed it from there. Johansen should have made it three but missed, much to the chagrin of the home crowd.
Their top scorer's second, and Celtic's third, was a classic moment of Griffiths efficiency, aided and abetted by three young players who warrant a lot more game time in the coming months.
- 28SviatchenkoBooked at 45mins
- 16Mackay-StevenSubstituted forRobertsat 82'minutes
- 25JohansenSubstituted forChristieat 67'minutes
- 14ArmstrongSubstituted forAllanat 63'minutes
- 25Fon Williams
- 17HornerSubstituted forHughesat 78'minutes
- 5WarrenBooked at 52mins
- 16TanseySubstituted forWilliamsat 88'minutes
- 11RobertsSubstituted forMbuyi-Mutomboat 72'minutes
- Don Robertson
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Celtic 3, Inverness CT 0.
Goal! Celtic 3, Inverness CT 0. Leigh Griffiths (Celtic) left footed shot from outside the box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Scott Allan.
Corner, Celtic. Conceded by Danny Devine.
Corner, Inverness CT. Conceded by Dedryck Boyata.
Substitution, Inverness CT. Ryan Williams replaces Greg Tansey.
Attempt missed. Leigh Griffiths (Celtic) left footed shot from the left side of the box is close, but misses to the left.
Corner, Celtic. Conceded by Danny Devine.
Attempt blocked. Patrick Roberts (Celtic) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.
Foul by Mikael Lustig (Celtic).
Andrea Mbuyi-Mutombo (Inverness CT) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Dedryck Boyata (Celtic) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Andrea Mbuyi-Mutombo (Inverness CT).
Attempt missed. Leigh Griffiths (Celtic) left footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left.
Attempt saved. Greg Tansey (Inverness CT) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top left corner.
Foul by Dedryck Boyata (Celtic).
Liam Hughes (Inverness CT) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Celtic. Patrick Roberts replaces Gary Mackay-Steven.
Substitution, Inverness CT. Liam Hughes replaces Lewis Horner.
Corner, Inverness CT. Conceded by Craig Gordon.
Attempt saved. Ross Draper (Inverness CT) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner.
Corner, Inverness CT. Conceded by Kieran Tierney.
Substitution, Inverness CT. Andrea Mbuyi-Mutombo replaces Jordan Roberts.
Ryan Christie (Celtic) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Danny Devine (Inverness CT).
Foul by Nir Bitton (Celtic).
Jordan Roberts (Inverness CT) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt saved. Greg Tansey (Inverness CT) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal.
Substitution, Celtic. Ryan Christie replaces Stefan Johansen.
Attempt saved. Stefan Johansen (Celtic) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom right corner.
Substitution, Celtic. Scott Allan replaces Stuart Armstrong.
Goal! Celtic 2, Inverness CT 0. Leigh Griffiths (Celtic) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Kieran Tierney.
Foul by Stuart Armstrong (Celtic).
Liam Polworth (Inverness CT) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Attempt missed. Nir Bitton (Celtic) right footed shot from outside the box is too high.
Goal! Celtic 1, Inverness CT 0. Gary Mackay-Steven (Celtic) left footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom right corner.
Gary Warren (Inverness CT) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Leigh Griffiths (Celtic) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Gary Warren (Inverness CT).
Attempt blocked. Jordan Roberts (Inverness CT) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.