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Page last updated at 16:52 GMT, Saturday, 29 November 2008

Celtic 1-0 Inverness CT

Shaun Maloney scores against Inverness CT
Shaun Maloney fired Celtic in front with the only goal of the game

Shaun Maloney fired the only goal of a tense game as Celtic overcame a stubborn Inverness side to move seven points clear at the top of the SPL.

Celtic struggled to break down a well-organised Inverness defence - much to the dismay of the home supporters.

Maloney broke the deadlock after 29 minutes when he collected a superb pass from Shunsuke Nakamura to fire home past Inverness goalkeeper Ryan Esson.

Doug Imrie went close with an audacious chip, but Celtic held on for victory.

The hosts seemed to struggle following their midweek exit and the fluency of their early season form was absent.

Inverness were content to sit deep and attempt to hit Celtic on the break.

Andreas Hinkel and Nakamura appeared the most likely players to carve out an opportunity.

And it was Nakamura who set up what proved to be the only goal of the game.

The Japanese international's clever diagonal found Maloney. and his low effort evaded the despairing grasp of Esson and found the corner of the net.

Five minutes after the break, Inverness were denied a great chance to equalise when midfielder Ian Black sent Garry Wood racing clear.

But Wood was ruled offside in what appeared to be a borderline decision.

Black then tested Boruc with a long drive, as the hosts' inability to score a second goal caused anxiety among the home support.

Scott McDonald blazed high over the bar late on as Celtic failed to double their lead, but recorded their 12th consecutive SPL victory.

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan:

"Inverness will be proud of their performance in terms of making sure they did their job right and not wanting to get beat heavily.

"Technically, we were down a level today. Our shooting and final pass looked tired today. The fans can do what they want; they pay their money.

"They can moan, groan, get excited or cheer - it's entirely up to themselves.

"A seven-point lead isn't comfortable. Twenty seven is. If there are two games to go and we have that lead then I'll feel comfortable."

Inverness CT manager Craig Brewster:

"I'm very pleased with the way we played in the first half. We got into some really good positions - and either the final pass let us down or we didn't want to pull the trigger.

"From Celtic's point of view, Maloney scored a good goal. He got into positions that are difficult to pick up. Apart from his goal, Celtic didn't really trouble us too much.

"We didn't really hurt them in the second half. But Celtic Park is a difficult place to come. We have only lost by the one goal.

"Unfortunately, we didn't use the ball well enough in the final third. Their fans got a wee bit nervous and that is felt by the players.

"We pushed two men up front, but, to be fair, Caldwell and McManus defended well."

Celtic: Boruc, Hinkel, Caldwell, McManus, Robson (Naylor 62), Nakamura, Hartley, Scott Brown, Maloney, Samaras (Sheridan 62), McDonald, Sheridan (Mizuno 90). Subs Not Used: Mark Brown, Loovens, Caddis, Millar.

Booked: Boruc.

Goals: Maloney 29.

Inverness CT: Esson, Tokely, Munro, Proctor, Duncan, Imrie, Cowie, Vigurs (Rooney 73), Hastings, Black Wilson 86), Wood (Barrowman 62). Subs Not Used: Fraser, McBain, Sutherland, Duff.

Att: 55,117

Ref: D Somers

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Celtic's Gary Caldwell 7.81 (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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