SPL: Celtic clinch 44th Scottish title with victory over Inverness at joyous Celtic Park
Celtic secured a 44th Scottish championship with a flourish as Inverness were swept aside 4-1 in the Parkhead celebrations. Goals in the space of five second-half minutes from Gary Hooper (61) and Joe Ledley (66) kick-started the kind of joyous atmosphere Neil Lennon had called for ahead of the game, and Hooper's party-piece third (73) added lustre to the occasion. Georgios Samaras smashed a late fourth (89), and the home support barely broke voice even as Aaron Doran replied for Terry Butcher's side in injury-time. High in the stands the Hoops' suspended manager savoured a second straight title success sitting among supporters whose thoughts now turn to Hampden Park next month and the prospect of a first domestic double for six years. Inverness' fate was a footnote to the latest chapter in Celtic's heavy history books, but defeat had an impact on visitors chasing European qualification for the first time. The third-placed Highlanders' lead over chasing St Johnstone remains at five points, but that advantage will be cut by three if Steve Lomas' side defeat Ross County at home later on Sunday. Caley Thistle were the last side to prevent Celtic scoring at home in an SPL game, and for an hour they promised a repeat of that November shutout as the champions-elect found it hard going. Victor Wanyama's header - steered wide as advancing goalkeeper Antonio Reguero loomed in his eyeline - was as close as they got during a drab first half which saw a linesman's flag deny Anthony Stokes. When Efe Ambrose missed from six yards after the break it appeared Celtic might have to settle for a point and a low-key crawl to the finishing line. But Hooper found a route to goal through Graeme Shinnie's legs, and Ledley's controlled side-foot from a Mikael Lustig pass ended the game as a contest. The rest was a lap of honour, Hooper's classy near-post back-flick burying Kris Commons' cross and Samaras' skill working the chance for a shot which crashed in off the bar. Doran smuggled Inverness onto the scoresheet at the death; few in the home end even noticed.
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