Win sees Celtic remain four off Rangers
Celtic remain four points behind Rangers at the top of the Scottish Premier League after a 2-0 defeat of Inverness Caledonian Thistle at Parkhead. Rangers had piled the pressure on the Hoops as goals from Carlos Bocanegra, Maurice Edu and a Steven Naismith double helped thrash Dunfermline 4-0 in the early kick-off. But Celtic, who lost out in last week's Old Firm derby, responded in positive fashion with first-half strikes from Joe Ledley and James Forrest enough to defeat bottom of the table Inverness.
"Without being brilliant it was a very good result and I was pleased with the clean sheet as well," said Celtic manager Neil Lennon. "We started off nervy but once we got a foot hold in the game we were better."
At Celtic Park, hesitation from Fraser Forster allowed Gregory Tade to latch on to a long ball but the keeper did enough to block his shot with his legs. Nick Ross was then inches away from connecting with Richie Foran's low cross from the right as Inverness showed the early attacking promise.
Celtic began to exert some pressure on the Inverness defence with Gary Hooper firing just past Ryan Esson's post from 22 yards. Badr El Kaddouri's cross from the left had too much on it for Anthony Stokes and he couldn't direct his header on target at full stretch. Celtic were ahead in the 28th minute through a Ledley thunderbolt. Good work from Beram Kayal saw him beat his man before squaring the ball into the path of the Welshman who sent a powerful low left-foot strike past Esson from 20 yards.
Celtic moved further ahead five minutes later when from a cleared Inverness corner Ki Sung-Yeung played a perfect through ball for Forrest to race on to and the Scotland star lifted the ball over the advancing Esson to double the lead. The home defence were looking shaky and when Tade picked out Greg Tasey in the box with a quickly taken free-kick the Inverness player was unlucky to skew his shot wide.
Forrest and Hooper combined just after the break to set up Stokes but the Irishman blazed his shot over the bar from close range. Inverness looked certain to pull one back ten minutes from time when Richie Foran dived to meet a Graeme Shinnie cross with his head but Forster somehow got a hand to it to turn it round the post.
At East End Park, Rangers manager Ally McCoist celebrated his 49th birthday in style as his team got off to a flyer with Bocanegra giving them an eighth minute lead. The American centre-half held off marker Jason Thomson to direct a powerful header past Paul Gallacher from Steven Davis's corner.
In the 17th minute Bocanegra's international team-mate Edu made it 2-0 with a stunning long-range strike. Nikica Jelavic laid the ball off to the midfielder and he took a touch before firing a left-foot strike into the bottom left-hand corner from 25 yards.
Naismith added a third in the 51st minute when he raced on to a Davis pass to lift an angled shot past the outstretched arms of Gallacher. The Scotland international then scored his eighth of the season in the 81st minute when Davis picked out Jelavic in the box who squared for Naismith to tap into the empty net.
Elsewhere, a late Bob McHugh goal saw Motherwell defeat Aberdeen 1-0 as Craig Brown's side moved to second bottom, St Mirren moved into the top six with a 3-0 win over Kilmarnock and Hibernian and Dundee United played out a thrilling 3-3 draw at Easter Road.