29.11.2015 15:30 h

Celtic increase lead with win in Inverness

Celtic increased their lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership to seven points following a hard-fought 3-1 win over Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Sunday.

Callum McGregor celebrated his first league start in over a year to open the scoring in the seventh minute to follow up his strike in the 2-1 Europa League defeat to Ajax on Thursday.

Miles Storey grabbed an excellent equaliser for Inverness in the 39th minute before Leigh Griffiths restored Celtic's advantage in the 59th minute.

Former West Ham forward Carlton Cole was handed his Celtic debut and played a part in helping the Hoops get a controversial third in the 85th minute as he bundled the ball in off Inverness defender Danny Devine for an own goal.

It means Celtic move seven clear of Aberdeen, who leapfogged Hearts into second place after the Jambos could only manage a 2-2 draw with Motherwell on Saturday.

McGregor was rewarded for his performance in the disappointing defeat to Ajax that knocked Celtic out of the Europa League on Thursday and the midfielder helped the Hoops get off to a flying start in the Highlands.

The 20-year-old picked up a pass from Nir Bitton in his own half and ran at the retreating Inverness defence before letting fly with a low drive from 20 yards that went into the bottom right-hand corner of Owain Fon Williams' net.

Inverness almost had an instant reply as Gary Warren got his head to a corner that was only kept out by the chest of Craig Gordon.

Celtic were soon handed another opportunity but Mikel Lustig sent his free header wide from Stuart Armstrong's corner.

However, it was Inverness who equalised in the 39th minute.

Armstrong was robbed of possession on the half-way line and a quick break saw Storey burst forward between two Celtic defenders. Simunovic's challenge broke off Storey and was stopped by Gordon but the Inverness player was alert enough to slam the rebound beyond the Celtic 'keeper.

Bitton then sent a powerful swerving shot just wide as the sides went into the break level.

Celtic brought on Scott Allan early in the second half and the midfielder made an instant impact as he helped set up Griffiths to restore Celtic's advantage on the hour mark.

Allan played a weighted pass to Kieran Tierney whose cut-back from the by-line was slammed home by the Celtic striker.

Cole replaced Australian international Tom Rogic in the 61st minute and the former West Ham striker came close to immediately opening his account for the Scottish champions but his downward header from McGregor's cross was pushed over the bar by Fon Williams.

Inverness still posed Celtic a threat and when Greg Tansey's corner came off Bitton it needed the intervention of Stefan Johansen on the line to stop the hosts grabbing an equaliser.

Celtic grabbed a late third in controversial circumstances as Cole, who was following up a Griffiths strike, appeared to handle the ball on to Devine who knocked the ball into his own net.