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Inverness CT 0-0 Celtic

By Clive Lindsay

Lionel Djebi-Zadi reminds Celtic's Scott McDonald of his presence
It was a bruising encounter between ICT and Celtic at Caledonian Stadium

Inverness Caledonian Thistle battled bravely in their first game under Terry Butcher as SPL leaders Celtic were forced to settle for a point.

Dougie Imrie was denied early on by Celtic goalkeeper Artur Boruc, while new signing Richie Foran had the ball in the net only to be ruled offside.

Georgios Samaras squandered a couple of chances for Celtic, while Pavels Mihadjuks was also thwarted by Boruc.

Both sides pressed for a late winner, but chances were missed at both ends.

It meant that bottom side Caley Thistle avoided their ninth straight defeat in the Scottish Premier League, while Celtic had to settle for stretching their lead to two points going into their game against second-top Rangers.

New Inverness manager Butcher made his mark with five changes from the team chosen by caretaker John Docherty for the 3-2 defeat by Hearts.

Foran was handed a start with Lionel Djebi-Zadi, Andy Barrowman, David Proctor and Ian Black also returning to the Caley Thistle side.

Watford-bound Don Cowie was left out along with Garry Wood and Iain Vigurs, while Roy McBain was suspended and Thierry Gathuessi injured.

And it was the fired up Highlanders who posed the early threat, with Imrie forcing Boruc to turn his low drive from distance wide for a corner.

Then former Motherwell and Southend forward Foran athletically turned the ball past Boruc from eight yards only to be ruled offside in what was a very close call by the referee's assistant.

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan had freshened up his side after Wednesday's marathon Co-operative Insurance Cup semi-final win over Dundee United.

But, despite the return of fit-again captain Stephen McManus, Barry Robson and Georgios Samaras in place of Glenn Loovens, Marc Crosas and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, the league leaders lacked a bit of zip.

Samaras headed weakly wide from eight yards as Celtic started to create some chances of their own.

Terry Butcher greets the Caley Thistle fans
Butcher was leading Caley Thistle into battle for the first time

Mihadjuks did slightly better at the other end, finding the target from close range following a Black free-kick, but Boruc spread himself star-like to block the defender's header at the far post.

A game that had descended into a dour midfield battle sprang to life in the final 15 minutes after Russell Duncan broke clear down the right and his low cross across the face of Celtic's goal was missed by Imrie and substitute Adam Rooney.

Boruc took care to turn a looping Rooney header over the crossbar, while Celtic's Scott Brown had a close-range effort blocked as the play raged from end to end.

Eric Odhiambo forced a near-post save from Boruc, although the new signing's low drive was heading wide of the near post, while McManus fired well over the Inverness bar from six yards.

As the final whistle blew, the Caley Thistle fans could dream again of SPL survival - even though they are still four points adrift of Falkirk - while Celtic's were realising that the next Old Firm derby has become even more vital to the destiny of the title.

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan:
"It was nothing different from what we have had here before. We got the same type of performance from Inverness.

"It could have been any one of the games we've had here before.

"We've tried different teams. I've tried an all-skilful team, the stronger ones, taller ones. But, at this moment in time, we are not getting performances.

"We've got the footballers, we've got the better players, but we didn't play well, especially in the first half."

Inverness CT manager Terry Butcher:
"The players have given us everything and I thank them for that because it does give us hope.

"It's hard to put your finger on it, but there is something here that is a bit special. Hopefully we can take that forward.

"In the last 10 minutes, I was thinking that if we lost the game, I would still have been very pleased with the way they played.

"A point is a bonus obviously but the real bonus is the performance.

"They came off the pitch as heroes and our boys can be heroes this season."

Inverness CT: Esson, Tokely, Munro, Mihadjuks, Djebi-Zadi, Proctor, Black, Duncan, Foran (Vigurs 74), Imrie (Odhiambo 86), Barrowman (Rooney 69).
Subs Not Used: Fraser, McGuire, Wood, Duff.

Booked: Black, Rooney.

Celtic: Boruc, Hinkel, Caldwell, McManus, Naylor, Scott Brown, Robson, Nakamura (Crosas 64), McGeady, Samaras (Vennegoor of Hesselink 52), McDonald (Sheridan 87).
Subs Not Used: Mark Brown, Loovens, Hartley, O'Dea.

Booked: McManus, Robson.

Att: 7,007

Ref: C Richmond

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Caley Thistle's Richie Foran 7.17 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

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see also
Inverness v Celtic as it happened
01 Feb 09 |  Scottish Premier
SPL photo gallery
01 Feb 09 |  Scottish Premier

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