John Barnes was sacked just two days after losing 3-1 to the Highland side back in March 2000 but, the odd moment of anxiety aside, this was as comfortable an evening for the current Celtic manager as he could have possibly dared imagine.
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Dominant throughout, Celtic eventually settled for six goals but could have scored more, especially in the first half when they threatened just about every time they ventured into the Inverness penalty box.
It also represented Lennon’s first meaningful cup success after defeats to Ross County, Braga and Utrecht in recent months and, if that had preyed on his mind before the match, then his players didn’t let him down. The result was never in doubt.
Inverness had a smattering of chances throughout the 90 minutes but, with a defence like a sieve, they rarely looked like pulling off another shock. Having seen Dunfermline rattle Rangers for a brief spell the previous night, Terry Butcher must have travelled to Glasgow quietly confident of doing something similar.
An attack within the first 20 seconds offered early promise but it wasn’t to last. Celtic scored their first after 17 minutes and then simply motored away from their bedraggled opponents.
This was to prove to be Georgios Samaras’ night. The Greek strolled off with the match ball at full-time after completing a hat trick just short of the hour mark, but it would not be a Samaras performance without several head-scratching moments thrown in to sit alongside all the good things he managed. The striker somehow contrived to hit the crossbar from a matter of yards shortly after his first goal, then was less than convincing when through on goal seven minutes before half-time.
The occasion called for Samaras to put his laces through the ball but instead he attempted to dink the ball cutely into the net, watching on in horror as David Proctor raced back to attempt to clear only to slice into his own net.
The goal was still awarded to Samaras, but he at least had the decency to look rather sheepish by the whole affair. The incident did not overshadow his overall individual performance, however, and he was the deserved recipient of the man-of-the-match award.
Only an early injury to Emilio Izaguirre, who hobbled off after 12 minutes to be replaced by Charlie Mulgrew, put a dampener on a decent night’s work for Celtic, who will discover this afternoon their opponents in the fourth round, in a competition, in its many different guises, that has historically treated Lennon well.
He won the League Cup twice as a player in England, before coming north and winning the Scottish version twice more, and it has taken on extra significance for him as a coach, too, with no European engagements offering more glamorous distractions.
He had spoken warmly about the competition and what it meant to him in the build-up to Inverness’s visit, and the strength of the team he sent out did not betray that stance. Only Mark Wilson, making his first appearance of the season, could be considered a fringe player, while there was also a first domestic start of the season for Gary Hooper on his return from the calf injury sustained against Braga on August 4.
The Englishman looked lively and marked his return to the side with a goal -- Celtic’s second -- after 21 minutes that effectively killed off any chance Inverness had of causing another upset.
The visitors threatened sporadically -- Nick Ross was denied within 20 seconds and Johnny Hayes’ deflected shot needed Fraser Forster to make a smart save with his legs -- but come half-time they looked bowed and beaten.
By that point Celtic could have been six ahead. Ki saw his dangerous free-kick tipped away by Jonny Tuffey, before Samaras opened the scoring after 17 minutes, redirecting Joe Ledley’s cross.
The Greek then supplied Hooper for Celtic’s second, the Englishman swivelling and finishing with the outside of his boot, before Efrain Juarez put a glaring chance over the crossbar from close range. Samaras claimed his second of the night but not before Tuffey had been asked to make another impressive stop to keep out Anthony Stokes.
There was little dubiety about the goal that gave the Greek his hat trick, a sweet low shot that swept into the corner of the net, before Stokes added a fifth with a penalty after 74 minutes after Tuffey had sent him tumbling.
The Irishman scored again nine minutes from time, cutting inside to unleash a swerving shot that had Tuffey grasping at air, with the same player inches away from claiming a hat trick after the goalkeeper saved well from Shaun Maloney.