Bhoys scrape tense win over Inverness

Inverness 1 Celtic 2

Celtic managed to extend their lead at the top of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League with a tense win at Inverness.

Second-half goals from Scott Brown and Glenn Loovens gave the champions a comfortable advantage.

However, youngster Garry Wood, who had earlier spurned a great opportunity, forced a goal back for the home side to make for an interesting finish.

Celtic’s top scorer Georgios Samaras was not in the squad for today’s trip after being ruled out injured.

With Samaras and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink missing, Celtic looked to Shaun Maloney and Scott McDonald to provide the attacking threat.

The hosts made a positive start when Wood released Don Cowie, who raced down the right.

But his cross was too far in front of the onrushing Roy McBain. When the ball eventually fell back to Cowie, his effort was deflected wide for a fruitless corner.

The home side had a great chance to take the lead when Richard Hastings found himself free at the back post but the Canadian lashed his shot high and wide.

Celtic began to look more dangerous and Michael Fraser had to be at his best to save a Aiden McGeady strike from the edge of the box. The Inverness keeper did well to gather the resulting corner in a crowded penalty area.

Ian Black picked up the first yellow card of the day after 28 minutes for scything down McGeady, who was heading towards the Inverness box at pace.

A terrible pass from Loovens gifted Dougie Imrie a chance to run at the Celtic defence and Stephen McManus had no option but to bring down the Caley midfielder 30 yards from goal. Imrie dusted himself down before firing a well-struck free-kick inches over Artur Boruc’s goal.

Wood should have given Inverness the lead after linking up well with Cowie but the young striker’s shot straight at a thankful Boruc.

As half-time, approached Crosas was booked for impeding Cowie.

Black was then very fortunate to remain on the park after fouling McGeady but referee Iain Brines kept his cards in his pocket.

Brown was booked for a late tackle on Imrie as the game began to get increasingly scrappy.

Maloney had another chance from a free-kick just before the end of the first half but Grant Munro did well to head the ball away from danger.

Celtic had the first chance of the second half but Maloney wasted another free-kick after Robson had been fouled by Imrie.

However, the vocal travelling support did not have to wait too long to see the opening goal.

Robson found Lee Naylor in space and the Englishman delivered a pinpoint ball for Brown, who gave Fraser in the Caley goal no chance with an excellent finish.

Inverness defender Phil McGuire was stretchered off with a serious-looking ankle injury and replaced by Jamie Duff after 53 minutes.

Black had an opportunity to get his side back on level terms after good work by Ross Tokely and Wood but the midfielder’s effort was tame.

Celtic made a double substitution, with Wilson and Cillian Sheridan replacing Gary Caldwell and the tiring McDonald, who had travelled to Australia in midweek.

The change had an immediate impact when Loovens ventured forward to head home his second goal for Celtic from a Robson cross.

Craig Brewster responded by changing to a two-man strikeforce, bringing on Adam Rooney for Black.

But it was Celtic who could have had a third when McGeady exploded down the right before firing a menacing ball across the face of goal that Robson was only inches away from connecting with.

With the visitors still lamenting that miss, Inverness went up the park and scored to make for an interesting finish.

Tokely’s cross was well won by Rooney for Wood, who forced the ball past Boruc.

Imrie picked up a booking for an aggressive tackle on Brown before Barry Wilson came on for Roy McBain after 75 minutes.

The omnipresent Imrie had a rasping volley well saved by Boruc as the home side mounted a series of attack on the Celtic goal.

The travelling supporters appealed for a penalty when Loovens fell in the box as he attempted to get on the end of a Maloney corner but Brines waved play on.

McGeady was booked for dissent as the game drew to a close.

Duff was forced to concede a corner after an intelligent ball from Robson but Maloney’s delivery found no takers.

Substitute Sheridan and then Maloney had chances to win the game for the visitors but neither could find a way past Fraser.

Inverness continued to search for an equaliser and Boruc was relieved to gather the ball when he had initially dropped a Wilson cross under pressure.

Tokely was booked for a late tackle on former teammate Robson.

Deep into injury-time, Crosas was carried off the park with a hamstring injury and the Spaniard looks unlikely to be fit for Celtic’s Champions League match against Manchester United on Tuesday.

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