Moussa Dembele continues to score and continues to add to his burgeoning value as Celtic waltzed into the quarter-finals of the William Hill Scottish Cup.
The 20-year-old’s treble came in less than 15 minutes either side of the half as he became the first Celtic player since Dixie Deans in 1974 to net back-to-back hat-tricks for the Glasgow giants, following his hat-trick against St Johnstone.
Mikael Lustig opened the scoring in what was a tempestuous first-half. Dembele doubled the lead before the break before notching his second and third before the hour mark. Kieran Tierney and Scott Brown added the icing and the cherry on the cake in the last five minutes.
Inverness rarely threatened Celtic’s unbeaten run which now stands at 15. In terms of domestic matches it goes back 30 games to the final game of last season.
A low key opening was finally punctuated in the 20th minute when Lustig followed up his rabona against St Johnstone the previous week with a well-taken goal in the six-yard box.
ICT were having problems defending their left side, giving the Swede the confidence to make a diagonal run from the right, behind the defensive line.
Nir Bitton, in keeping with his recent up-turn in form, spotted the movement and floated a delicate chip over the defence to meet Lustig. The 30-year-old embraced fellow Swede Zlatan Ibrahimovic by expertly bringing the ball down over his shoulder and then turning it past Owain Fon-Williams with his left in one movement.
The first half was summed up in the 34th minute when Ross Draper flattened Erik Sviatchenko on the touchline with a heavy but fair challenge before a coming together with Scott Brown. The Celtic captain appeared to stand on his toes before the Englishman flicked out his boot at Brown, earning a yellow card from Kevin Clancy.
Celtic were unable to gather any momentum such was the stop-start nature of the encounter. Four ICT players were cautioned in the first half due to their robust approach to the match.
As Richie Foran was set to address his players only a goal down Celtic struck seconds before the game entered stoppage time.
Again the danger came down their left-hand side. James Forrest, a constant threat, sped in behind Carl Tremarco. The left-back slipped allowing Forrest an easy route into the box where he rolled the ball into the path of top scorer Dembele. The striker’s shot wasn’t the cleanest but Owain Fon-Williams in the Inverness goal was only able to divert the ball behind his back and over the line.
Any hopes of an Inverness comeback in the second half were eradicated five minutes after the restart when Demeble netted his 25th goal of the season.
Quick play outside the away side’s box freed Scott Sinclair to make his way into the area. Raven made a great last-ditch challenge but only managed to divert the ball into the path of the French star who calmly caressed it into the far corner.
Goal 26 came before the hour mark. The striker didn’t just finish the move but started it as well. He sprayed a pass out to the right for Forrest. The winger faced up Brad McKay, took him to the bye-line, sat him down as if he was about to read him a story before standing the ball up for Dembele to head in his second hat-trick within a week.
If one player on the pitch deserved a goal it was Forrest. His chance came on 66 minutes as he pounced on slack Inverness play but despite having the goal at his mercy he slid the ball wide.
The remainder of the game was a matter of how many for the home side. Inverness looked like being spared, that was until the 86th minute.
Bitton collected a loose ball on the edge of the box, played in Forrest who provided a carbon copy of the fourth goal, only it was left-back Tierney on the end of his cross, once again stood up perfectly. It may have been for Scott Sinclair but it was a few inches too high. Tierney, however, was not passing up the opportunity to get on the score sheet.
The officials showed their mercy by only adding one minute of stoppage time. Yet, even that was enough time for Celtic to net number six.
Sinclair’s centre was cut out but the ball only went as far as Brown who was careering into the box before thundering the ball into the top corner.