Inverness Caledonian Thistle battled back from two goals down and then survived the sending-off of David Proctor to record a stunning 3-2 victory over Celtic yesterday. The result left the league leaders' advantage over Rangers in the Premier League at just two points.
Two first-half goals in two minutes from Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink put Celtic in control at the Caledonian Stadium, but John Rankin set up a scintillating second half by scoring a penalty not long before the break following Steven Pressley's foul on Marius Niculae. A header from Proctor brought Caley level and then Don Cowie's stabbed finish put the home side into the lead and the Highlanders held on to that hard-earned advantage despite Proctor's 68th-minute dismissal for hauling down Scott McDonald when the Australian was through on goal.
The Celtic manager, Gordon Strachan, was shocked by the defeat and questioned some of the referee's decisions. "We were going forward at will, we were creating chances and scoring goals," he said. "It was never a problem. Then a goal comes from nothing, from a penalty kick, which I'm not sure if it was a penalty."
McDonald also had a goal disallowed for offside when the match was level at 2-2 and Strachan added: "I felt we deserved to win, there's no doubt about that. Inverness Caley worked hard but I'm sure they are in there just now and can't believe they won the game of football. Somebody asked me how I feel and I've got absolutely no feeling for this in terms of describing it. It was such an easy game, to be 2-0 up and cruising, and then get things put against us the way they did. It's incredible. It's a surreal feeling."
The Hoops manager, who has been linked with the Seville defender Andreas Hinkel, refused to be drawn on speculation he is in the market for a full-back.
"My brain is scrambled at the moment so it's gobbledegook what you're talking to me, I'm just thinking about the game," he said. "Whatever you said there, I don't know what you're talking about."
Cowie was understandably ecstatic. "You put a wee run together in this league and anything can happen," he said. "That's four wins on the trot for us and we have gone from second bottom to seventh. And, with the confidence that we will take from today, you never know what can happen."
Of his winning goal, Cowie added: "That's five for the season now so I'm absolutely delighted. For it to be the winner against Celtic was extra nice. To come back from 2-0 down against any team is an achievement, to do it against Celtic was just unbelievable."
Goals: Vennegoor of Hesselink 24 (1-0), 26 (2-0), Rankin 42 pen (2-1), Proctor 57 (2-2), Cowie 61 (2-3).
Inverness Caledonian Thistle (4-4-2): Fraser; Proctor, McGuire, Munro, Hastings; Cowie (Wilson 86), Black, Duncan, Rankin; McBain (Tokely 69), Niculae (Bayne 81). Substitutes not used: Malkowski, McAllister, Vigurs, Duff.
Celtic (4-4-2): Mark Brown; Caldwell, Pressley (Riordan 77), McManus, Conroy; Scott Brown, Hartley, Donati, McGeady; Vennegoor of Hesselink, McDonald (Killen, 81). Substitutes not used: McGovern, Sno, O'Dea, Jarosik, Balde.
Referee: A Freeland (Scotland).
Booked: Inverness: Hastings. Celtic: McGeady. Sent off: Inverness: Proctor.
Man of the match: Niculae.
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