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Celtic 6 Inverness 0: Fans' focus plays second fiddle as chart toppers remain on song

THIS was a Sunday afternoon replete with denunciations, personal defence and an unanswerable declaration about the reality of Scottish football.

Celtic striker Anthony Stokes heads his side into the lead, from a Leigh Griffiths corner, before adding two more goals to his day's tally against Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Picture: SNS
Celtic striker Anthony Stokes heads his side into the lead, from a Leigh Griffiths corner, before adding two more goals to his day's tally against Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Picture: SNS

The 90 minutes-plus gave an unnecessary testimony to the superiority of Celtic in the SPFL Premiership. On the 40th anniversary of the club's achievement of nine in a row they gave ample evidence that this third consecutive title win is merely part of a yet incomplete run rather than the end of it.

The denunciation occurred before the game, with the Green Brigade unveiling a banner declaring: "A man must be a Celt on and off the field otherwise he is of no value to the club." This was brandished below another banner stating that Celtic was created by immigrants and that refugees were welcome at the club.

A police inquiry into alleged racist singing by Leigh Griffiths continues but it will not take the combined efforts of Morse, Columbo and Taggart to deduce that the words were aimed at the former Hibernian striker.

The defence - notably absent in Inverness Caledonian Thistle colours - came from Celtic manager Neil Lennon. "I can't comment on the banner because I wasn't sure he was named in it for a start. If it is Leigh, we are going through a process and we will be able to speak more about it when the process finishes. We've all made mistakes and I think he has come good and he will learn from it. I think he will have a good career here," he said.

Mercifully, Mr Griffiths did not provide a song but gave an answer of sorts in a performance where he created two goals and scored another. His off-field conduct has been an embarrassment to the club and may yet be met with condign punishment but he remains an obvious asset on the pitch, particularly when in tandem with Anthony Stokes, the scorer of a hat trick yesterday. Both were at the cutting edge of a Celtic performance so irrepressible that when Craig Charleston, the match referee, awarded Inverness a penalty so soft it could have been served up as a mousse, it was predictable that Fraser Forster would save it. He duly did, diving to his left and palming away Aaron Doran's spot kick.

The sign that was not brandished was that which indicated one-way traffic. The score, though, speaks to that reality. This was a match so one-sided that one could be forgiven for believing that Inverness were a relegation-threatened side instead of one in the top half of the Premiership.

Celtic were, however, in a different league. A stuttering start was followed by a veritable deluge of goals on a bright Sunday. The talking point may have been about Griffiths but Stokes was the headline maker on the park in that he crisply scored his three goals before making way to a standing ovation. He converted a Griffiths corner with a smart header, drilled a pass from the Scottish striker past Dean Brill and scored a second-half penalty with ease after Stefan Johansen was brought down by a combination of Gary Warren and Ross Draper.

The tide was halted, if only briefly, when Inverness broke clear and Billy McKay fell under a challenge from Virgil van Dijk. Doran's miss was followed by Celtic scoring three spectacular goals.

Stokes played in Griffiths, who scored precisely from the edge of the box, Efe Ambrose glanced in a cross from Kris Commons and Teemu Pukki came on to drill home the ball home from another Commons pass.

Allied with the sort of overwhelming possession percentage that would grace a North Korean presidential election, Stokes hitting the bar and a Van Dijk header striking the post, and Brill saving brilliantly from Commons and Adam Matthews, the picture is clear. This was so much of a humping it could have been mistaken for a morbidly obese camel.

It was Celtic's best league win of the season but was simply emblematic of their domination throughout the campaign. Lennon properly hailed it as one of his side's best displays, ratified by the return to action of Adam Matthews, Charlie Mulgrew and Mikael Lustig, the last coming on as a second-half substitute after an absence stretching back to December.

It was left for John Hughes, the Inverness manager, to state the obvious. "Celtic are miles ahead of anyone else in Scottish football," he said.

The road ahead is clear for the champions in terms of domestic success but there might be a twist in the upward trajectory of Lennon's career as talk about a switch to Norwich City has strengthened. Griffiths, in contrast, faces a bumpy ride. He is at a crossroads in his career. The police and club investigations suggest he is flirting with the sort of route normally charted by lemmings. He must seize any opportunity to step away from the precipice.

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