Caley Thistle were 2-0 down before half an hour had been played after Vennegoor of Hesselink had hit a quickfire double in 24 and 26 minutes.
A Rankin penalty after Pressley had fouled Niculae in 42 minutes reduced the deficit to 1-2 at half time and another quickfire double, this time from Proctor and Cowie for Caley Thistle ensured that Craig Brewster's men made it 4 wins on the trot, achieved their first ever SPL win against Celtic and moved up to 7th spot in the table. All in all, a pretty good day at the office !!!
This game had the lot, and would certainly been an entertaining game for and neutral spectator. With a penalty, a sending off, counter attacking football and most importantly goals, you cannot argue that only one word sums up the full 90 minutes - FANTASTIC!!!
The game kicked off in the usual fashion - ball knocked forward and then passed back over the line - with Celtic attacking the North Stand. I couldn’t quite, however, understand the booing of Mark Brown when his name was announced over the tannoy. A superb servant to ICT through there progression to SPL football should surely require a little more respect towards the opposing ‘keeper.
Anyhoo, the match took a wee while to get going, and the first real opportunity started with a sublime pass (or should that be ricochet) off referee Alan Freeland on 10 minutes. Ian Black taking the ball nicely in his stride, and with an attempt to thread through John Rankin, the ball ricocheted well off Freeland for Celtic to produce the counter. Phil Maguire, remaining as strong as he has done in recent weeks, was able to clear off the line. The ball rebounded back to Scott Brown, whom had the ball gathered at his feet by a brave Mike Fraser.
Inverness took the game to Celtic, and with 3 wins and 3 clean sheets before this game, confidence was high at Fortress Longman and it showed in the flowing football that was on display. Marius Niculae again produced some superb touches and held the play up well for Rankin to slot back through only for Niculae to bring out a fine save from Mark Brown. Moments later, Ian Black was presented a chance from David Proctor, but his 25 yard drive went straight to the hands of the former Caley Thistle number 1.
Despite plenty of pressure from ICT, it was Celtic who produced the opener in what was to be a very bad 60 seconds for the home side. On 25 minutes, Jan Venegoor of Hesslink nodded the ball to Fraser’s left hand post to produce a goal from a disputed Hartley free kick. And it was the Dutch man who once again hurt the heart of the ICT defence with another header, connecting with Aiden McGeady’s nicely curled cross from the right to make it 2-0.
The scoreline at this stage certainly didn’t reflect how the teams performed. Scott Brown was rather lackluster with his passing and ball control, and could not capitalise on the mistakes made on the ICT left when both McBain and Hastings drifted further and further into the centre of the park. Fortress Longman certainly lived up to its nickname, however, as ICT refused to rest or sit back.
Michael Fraser had little else to do in the first half, as Celtic struggled to produce any more clear cut first half chances. A clearance from the back created some fine football to allow Niculae to break and change to course of the game. With only Stephen Pressley nearby, Marius Niculae was judged to be brought down in the box, and the penalty was rightly rewarded. Oh how I’d wished Fraser go one on one with Brown at this stage! John Rankin placed the ball and smashed it straight through Mark Brown. A let-off for Pressley you might say without so much as a booking, and silence in the South Stand as the first half petered out to a 1-2 scoreline…
Renowned for their ‘never say die’ attitude in recent weeks, Inverness once again took the game to Celtic in the second half, but again it was Celtic who produced a chance. Venegoor of Hesslink was just shy of his hat-trick when his driven shot from 18 yards deflected clear off the post. This was to be Celtic only real charge on goal for the coming quarter hour.
Don Cowie and our Romanian superstar were linking up well with almost every break that ICT produced. Niculae holding up the play to set Cowie on his mazy runs and Niculae following up the play with a couple of efforts at goal. The initial shots not really troubling Mark Brown.
The Equaliser was sure to come, and with 55 minutes played ICT worked hard enough for Celtic to concede a corner. Don Cowie sent in a superb cross, and certain contender for Man of the Match David Proctor, leaped high above 3 defenders to power his header past a helpless Brown. Silence remained in the Celtic enclosure as the ICT faithful played the part of 12th man in spectacular fashion. The drums on full force and even the Main stand singing, it was great to hear a chant of ‘Give Mark Brown a game, does he know it’s Christmas time?’
Celtic almost took the lead moments after the re-start. The back 4 of Inverness stayed in superb shape for McDonald to find himself offside. Although finishing well, his goal was disallowed and play was allowed to continue.
If Inverness were the side with heads held high, Celtic were a side who were obviously stunned to throw away a 2-0 lead. And it showed 5 minutes from the equaliser when Don Cowie produced what was to be the winner. Celtic were pressing but not producing any sort of quality balls for their strike pair and Richard Hastings pelt up the park was to prove decisive. Stephen McManus was unable to deal with the high ball and Cowie managed to stick a toe to produce the end result.
Absolute delight in the North and Main stands, and total devastation in the South.
Celtics best chance for an equaliser came from a free kick on the edge of the box soon after. Phil McGuire was unable to connect fully to a clearance and Scott MacDonald was through. With David Proctor leading the chase, he unceremoniously brought down MacDonald and was rightly sent for an early bath. Surely this was to be yet another turning point to this fixture?
It was Aiden McGeady with the resulting free kick on the very edge of the box, but his dipping effort didn’t have enough curl to sneak in at Frasers far post and a goal kick resulted.
Brewster was forced to change the formation with Rossco making his return from suspension in place of Roy McBain. Celtic also rang the changes soon after as Gordon Strachan looked for an equaliser from his million pound superstars. Riorden was sent on as a 3rd striker, making way for centre back Pressley - who on a whole had a rather poor game. Celtic certainly didn’t want to loose on the road with Rangers on their tail with a game in hand also.
Mike Fraser was a hero in goal, as wave after wave of Celtic attack ended in the grasp of the Caley Jags ‘keeper. Some superbly taken crosses from both set pieces and open play made it frustrating for the Celtic attack. Every ICT player was clearly on top form, and deserved to hold on for victory. But Celtic still had a few more chances to find an equaliser.
ICT resorted to deep defending and the occasional counter attack, and could have made it 4-2. Once again Rankin, Cowie and Niculae were the centre pieces of the attack, constantly supplied by decent balls from Ian Black. Niculae was sent though charged towards the Celtic goal. Pulled back by McManus, no free kick resulted and again the ICT defence was forced to defend deep.
More changes made, this time by ICT, as Cowie and Niculae were replaced by Wilson and Bayne. Standing ovations all round and Wilson was soon set through. Another chance for a 4th, but Wilson simply couldn’t get enough of a touch and the ball rolled steadily to Mark Brown.
The closing stages were constant pressure from Celtic as they closed in on an equaliser, but Tokely, Munro, McGuire and Hastings stood firm. The traditional injury time goal from the East End outfit was not forthcoming, and Fraser produced a world class save to deny a top corner effort from McManus powerful header.
The 3 minutes of injury time were over, and Inverness recorded a well worked, well fought and well deserved first ever SPL victory of the greener side of the Old Firm. The run continues for ICT as they become the leagues on form side. Who would have thought that just 5 weeks ago, Inverness would go from 2nd bottom to 7th - just 2 points off 6th spot. Absolutely superb football for the full 90 minutes and even the half time entertainment produced more goals than the rest of the season. 75 points to 50 the final score!!
Match report written by CaleyD