Champions Celtic end season with easy win over Caley

Champions Celtic end season with easy win over Caley

Celtic 5 Inverness 0

Celtic began their Scottish Premiership title-winning party after a Stefan Scepovic double helped them to an easy 5-0 win over a weakened Inverness side at Parkhead.

The Serbian striker, handed a rare start for the Hoops, opened the scoring from inches out in the fifth minute before returning midfielder Stefan Johansen added the second before the break.

Caley, without half a dozen regulars rested for next week’s William Hill Scottish Cup final against Falkirk, chased shadows most of the afternoon and lost further goals to Scepovic, his replacement, Leigh Griffiths, and substitute Kris Commons as Ronny Deila’s side confirmed their status as champions.

While the Hoops fans celebrated their fourth successive title win and waited for the trophy presentation, John Hughes’s side sloped up the tunnel to prepare for next week’s showpiece occasion against Falkirk at Hampden well beaten but with perhaps not too much damage done to their cup hopes.

Both sides made six changes, for differing reasons.

Scepovic was a surprise inclusion, with regular starters Craig Gordon, Virgil van Dijk, Emilio Izaguirre, Nir Bitton and Johansen also restored to the side.

Caley Thistle boss John Hughes also made six changes, with Nick Ross, Lewis Horner, Carl Tremarco, Danny Williams, Liam Polworth and Tarmo Kink starting.

Regulars Josh Meekings, Graeme Shinnie, Ross Draper, Edward Ofere, Greg Tansey and David Raven were nowhere to be seen as Hughes named just five substitutes.

The Highlanders had thwarted Celtic’s treble hopes with a 3-2 extra-time win in the Scottish Cup semi-final.

However, the prospects of being title party poopers ended when Johansen’s free-kick to the back post was headed back across goal by Van Dijk, leaving Bitton and Scepovic getting in each other’s way almost before the latter appeared to get the last touch for his fifth goal of the season.

From then, Celtic barely let up.

Tremarco headed off the line moments later after Inverness defender Gary Warren, suspended for next week’s final, had inadvertently knocked an Izaguirre cross towards his own goal.

Inverness keeper Ryan Esson then saved from Scepovic’s drive but the siege was relentless, paying off for the second time when Izaguirre got into the box past Warren before cutting the ball back for Johansen to sweep the ball past Esson from 12 yards.

The champions were well in control and had a good claim for a penalty in the 33rd minute when Van Dijk’s goal-bound header from a Bitton cross was deflected past the post for a corner by Danny Williams’s hand, but referee Kevin Clancy took no notice.

The Hoops fans, though, noted it was a similar incident that had cost them dearly in the cup semi-final when, with the Hoops winning 1-0, Meekings blocked a certain Griffiths goal with his arm to no punishment.

In the 53rd minute, as Celtic continued their dominance after the break albeit with less tenacity, midfielder Stuart Armstrong flashed a shot over the bar from 14 yards, following another Forrest cut-back.

In the 70th minute after Celtic made a double switch – Commons and Charlie Mulgrew on for Armstrong and Adam Matthews – Scepovic added a third after Johansen and Forrest combined to leave him with a simple tap-in.

Esson was replaced by Cameron Mackay in the Inverness goal before Scepovic made way for Griffiths, who drove in a fourth with 10 minutes remaining as the Hoops fans warmed up for the post-match celebrations, which were in full swing when Commons made it 5-0 in the last minute with a shot from outside the box.

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