Wednesday 13 November 2019

Inverness held by Celtic

Inverness 1 Celtic 1

Celtic's Leigh Griffiths celebrates scoring his sides opening goal against Inverness. Jeff Holmes/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Celtic's Leigh Griffiths celebrates scoring his sides opening goal against Inverness. Jeff Holmes/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Inverness and Celtic warmed up for their William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final showdown next weekend with a 1-1 draw at a blustery Tulloch Caledonian stadium.

Returning Hoops striker Leigh Griffiths opened the scoring for the visitors in the third minute only for his Caley counterpart Edward Ofere to level just over a minute later.

Caley lost keeper Dean Brill, back in the side for the first time in 11 weeks after recovering from a knee problem, to a 15th-minute injury.

He was replaced by Ryan Esson who made a couple of game-saving stops to deny the Scottish Premiership leaders who go eight points clear of Aberdeen who play Kilmarnock at Rugby Park on Sunday.

The third-placed Highlanders laid down a marker for next week's semi-final clash at Hampden Park with some dogged defending, especially in the second half, although Celtic will look to improve in what is hoped will be better conditions at the national stadium.

When Celtic visited Caley in August Hoops manager Ronny Deila, still getting to grips with the job he had taken over in the summer, made 10 changes and lost 1-0.

It was a more settled Hoops team which travelled north this time.

Captain Scott Brown returned from suspension to replace Kris Commons while defender Efe Ambrose came in for Adam Matthews and John Guidetti made way for Griffiths.

Brill replaced 35-year-old Ryan Esson while forward Ryan Christie and Ofere were given starts as Nick Ross and Aaron Doran also dropped to the bench.

A whirlwind start to the game saw both sides score before five minutes had elapsed.

Gary Warren was the only one back in the Caley defence when Griffiths raced on to a pass by Brown and he did not very much at all to stop the Hoops striker firing a drive from 25 yards low past Brill and into the far corner.

It was a perfect start for the visitors.

Around 90 seconds later the home side were level when David Raven's shot was helped towards goal by Christie and blocked by Celtic defender Jason Denayer on the line but only to Ofere and the 29-year-old Nigerian forward hammered it in from close range.

The game took another twist when Caley lost their keeper.

Brill received lengthy treatment after a collapsing to the ground after being closed down by Hoops forward Gary Mackay-Steven in the box, before being carried off on a stretcher with Esson coming on.

The game turned into a midfield scrap but in the 39th minute, following a Stefan Johansen free-kick, the veteran keeper made a fine finger-tip save from a close-range Ambrose header at the expense of a corner and Caley survived a brief spell of pressure.

Seven minutes into the start of the second-half which was growing in its tetchiness, Inverness defender Josh Meekings headed a Greg Tansey corner past the far post when he ought to have hit the target.

At the other end moments later, Esson made a great save from Denayer after the Belgium international had got his head on to a Stuart Armstrong free-kick, the Parkhead side again failing to capitalise on the corner.

In the 62nd minute Commons replaced Mackay-Steven and Adam Matthews came on for Ambrose before Brown was shown a yellow card by referee Craig Thomson for simulation inside the Caley box when going past Raven, in trying to win a penalty.

Celtic were playing most of the game in the Inverness half of the pitch but there was a half-chance in the 77th minute when a corner fell to Raven but his drive from 16 yards cleared the bar by a yard.

Guidetti then replaced Griffiths before a shot from Tansey from the edge of the box in a rare Caley foray, was deflected for a corner which, like Celtic's late attacks, came to nothing.

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