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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 September 2007, 18:19 GMT 19:19 UK
Celtic 5-0 Inverness CT
By Julian Taylor

Dutchman Hesselink celebrates the opener for Celtic
Dutchman Hesselink celebrates the opener for Celtic
Celtic went top of the SPL after a comprehensive home victory over a spirited Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink netted a brace, the first in 15 minutes, before Massimo Donati made it two against the run of play before the break.

A fantastic 56th minute Shunsuke Nakamura strike put the Hoops on cruise control, before Marius Niculae hit the post for Craig Brewster's side.

Hesselink headed the third before Phil McGuire's own goal completed the rout.

Manager Gordon Strachan will no doubt be delighted in the manner of the victory, as Celtic prepared in some style for their first Champions League group encounter at Shakthar Donetsk in midweek.

The Glasgow side received a big pre-match boost with the news that rivals Rangers - who had a two point advantage - lost to Hearts at Tynecastle.

Strachan elected to freshen the midfield ranks with Nakamura, Aiden McGeady and Donati all returning at the expense of Paul Hartley, Evander Sno and Derek Riordan.

Inverness, meanwhile, brought back defender McGuire for Stuart McCaffrey while player-manager Craig Brewster left himself out of the squad.

The Highlanders' trip to face the champions appeared ominous with no points taken from their first five games of the new campaign.

Dennis Wyness should have shocked the hosts after eight minutes when, after the ball had ricocheted around the Celts penalty area, he could only fire high over the bar.

That early Inverness threat was swiftly extinguished by Celtic, when Hesselink finished off a four-man move, after Scott McDonald battled superbly to play in Nakamura.

The Japan international quickly set up Scott Brown, whose subsequent shot was re-directed from 12 yards by the Dutch forward past the helpless Caley Thistle goalkeeper Michael Fraser.

Massimo Donati
Massimo Donati netted the second for Gordon Strachan's side

While it was a the ideal start for Celtic, they surprisingly slowed down and enabled Inverness to regroup and create a string of opportunities to level.

McGuire powered a header inches wide from a set-piece, and even that failed to stir Celtic, as in-form Barry Wilson saw his raking drive well saved by Artur Boruc.

The Polish keeper was called into question again in the 35th minute when he turned Don Cowie's volley away for a corner, as the Highlanders confidence grew.

But, rather against the run of play, Celtic showed their ruthlessness with a significant second.

Italian Donati managed to outwit Caley Thistle defender Ross Tokely before cleverly placing the ball off the far post from a tight angle.

Celtic ensured they kept the tempo high after the restart to atone for their pedestrian first half, and Nakamura produced a vintage strike to put the outcome beyond any doubt.

The midfielder picked up possession 25 yards out and swirled a sublime left foot shot beyond Fraser into the top corner.

Just three minutes later, an unmarked Hesselink netted his second after directing a close range header into the net from McDonald's precise cross.

The home side were in full flow, and Strachan withdrew Brown and McGeady for Sno and Chris Killen respectively.

Inverness' Romanian striker Niculae went close but his effort from inside the penalty area came off the woodwork, with the visitors refusing to become downhearted.

Unfortunately for Brewster's men, McGuire helped out at the other end, turning the ball into his own net after 70 minutes, following a tireless run and cross from the right by McDonald.

Cowie dragged the ball wide of Boruc from a neat pass by Niculae as Inverness kept going in the closing stages, but there was not to be even the scantest of consolations for the basement side.


Celtic: Boruc, Wilson, Caldwell, McManus, Naylor, Nakamura, Scott Brown (Sno 63), Donati, McGeady, McDonald (McGowan 72), Vennegoor of Hesselink (Killen 66). Subs Not Used: Mark Brown, Hartley, Riordan, O'Dea.

Goals: Vennegoor of Hesselink 15, Donati 41, Nakamura 56, Vennegoor of Hesselink 59, McGuire 70 og.

Inverness CT: Fraser, Tokely, Munro, Duncan, McGuire, Wilson (Rankin 77), Niculae, McBain, Black, Cowie (Proctor 85), Wyness (McDonald 86). Subs Not Used: Malkowski, McCaffrey, MacDonald, Vigurs.

Booked: Black

Att: 56,020

Ref: C Thomson

SEE ALSO
Brewster backs beaten Inverness
15 Sep 07 |  Inverness CT
Saturday's SPL photos
15 Sep 07 |  Scotland


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