Inverness 2 '“ 2 Celtic: Fon Williams defies champions

Brendan Rodgers saw his perfect Premiership record as Celtic manager disappear at the hands of an inspirational display by Inverness Caledonian Thistle goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams as the Scottish champions dropped the first points of their title defence in extraordinary fashion.

Inverness players celebrate after Alex Fisher (hidden) scores a late equaliser. Picture: SNS.
Inverness players celebrate after Alex Fisher (hidden) scores a late equaliser. Picture: SNS.

Celtic remain in a commanding position at the top of the table, three points clear with a game in hand, but would have travelled down the A9 bemused by their failure to maintain a 100 per cent winning record under Rodgers, pictured.

Substitute Alex Fisher plundered a point for a resilient Inverness side with his first goal for the club since his summer move from Torquay United, lifting them off the foot of the table. Trailing 2-1 at half-time, Inverness had somehow survived a relentless second-half barrage from Celtic which saw Williams pull off a string of tremendous saves.

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At the end of a week which saw them ship seven goals in Barcelona, Celtic could easily have exceeded that tally themselves here. Inverness, however, would point to a contentious first-half incident which might easily have seen Celtic defender Erik Sviatchenko sent off and potentially altered the flow of the game.

Even so early in the season, this was an opportunity for Celtic to exert a real stranglehold in the title race. Their purposeful start to the contest was matched, however, by an Inverness side already anxious to climb away from the other end of the Premiership pile.

Josh Meekings passed up the opportunity to grab an early lead for the hosts, heading wastefully wide from close range when he was left unmarked to get on the end of Greg Tansey’s fourth minute corner.

Inverness captain Gary Warren was extremely fortunate to avoid a booking for what appeared a dangerously high challenge on Callum McGregor as Celtic mounted their first significant attack of the afternoon a minute later. Scott Sinclair guided the resultant free-kick around the defensive wall but straight into the arms of Williams.

The even nature of the early proceedings continued as Moussa Dembele dragged a shot wide after being set up cleverly by Patrick Roberts at one end, then Tansey’s free-kick was well held by Dorus de Vries under his crossbar at the other.

But was it was Celtic who drew first blood in the 17th minute, a goal which owed much to both the determination and skill of Kieran Tierney. Collecting a pass from Sviatchenko, the young left-back pushed forward before making space for a cross with a delightful turn which left Liam Polworth floundering.

Tierney steadied himself to pick out Rogic with a perfectly weighted cross, leaving the Australian midfielder with a relatively simple close-range finish for his fifth goal of the season.

On the balance of play, Inverness could feel slightly aggrieved to find themselves behind but their response was positive as French striker Lonsana Doumbouya received a Polworth pass and managed a shot on target which de Vries held comfortably.

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But the Dutch ‘keeper was beaten by Billy King’s stunning equaliser for the Highlanders in the 28th minute. Cutting in from the left, the on-loan Hearts winger unleashed a ferocious right-foot shot from around 25 yards. The ball dipped significantly and, although de Vries got a hand to it, he couldn’t keep it out.

As they tried to seize the initiative, Inverness were convinced they should have been handed the opportunity to take the lead from the penalty spot three minutes later. A sloppy error in possession from McGregor allowed Ross Draper the chance to race clear on goal.

As he reached the edge of the Celtic penalty area, Draper went down under a challenge from Sviatchenko. There was contact made, albeit Draper appeared to be inviting it rather than having the conviction to have a shot on goal. Either way, it was a let-off for Celtic as referee Don Robertson waved play on.

Inverness’ sense of grievance intensified when they fell 2-1 behind just three minutes later. Meekings was guilty of careless work when, under no pressure, he gave the ball away to Sinclair around the halfway line.

The winger needed no second invitation as he surged towards the penalty area and curled a magnificent shot beyond Williams’ left hand into the corner of the net.

Celtic attempted to turn the screw at the start of the second half as they put the Inverness defence under a period of intense and sustained pressure but found their pursuit of a third goal thwarted by the outstanding Williams.

The Welsh ‘keeper produced a series of tremendous saves, first of all diving full length to his left to keep out a Dembele drive and then showing great reactions to touch over a rising angled drive from Tierney.

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Williams was beaten in the 56th minute by a 20-yard shot from McGregor, the ball striking the crossbar with the aid of a slight deflection. The one-man act of defiance resumed when Williams did well to get a hand to a Rogic free-kick, then acrobatically flung himself to his left to divert a curling Sinclair shot wide.

Inverness were on the rack as Celtic showed no inclination to slacken their tempo. Sviatchenko headed against a post before Williams was called into action again when he made a spectacular one-handed save to keep out a McGregor shot.

With six minutes remaining, Celtic struck the frame of the Inverness goal for the third time of the afternoon when Tierney’s effort from around 14 yards clipped the top of the crossbar.

While they had struggled to get out of their own half for most of the second half, hope still remained for Inverness that they might fashion a chance to get back on level terms. So it proved with Fisher’s dramatic 89th minute goal. Inverness forced a corner when substitute Aaron Doran’s shot was deflected narrowly wide of de Vries’ left-hand post. Celtic were unable to clear the set piece effectively as the ball broke back to Tansey on the right. His cross into the six-yard area found Fisher who planted a firm header beyond de Vries.

The drama wasn’t over as stoppage time saw Tansey come close to snatching the most improbable of winners for Inverness when he curled a free-kick just wide, then Dembele missed a glorious chance to claim all three points for Celtic when he headed straight at Williams from close range. It was only fitting, however, that the Inverness ‘keeper had the final word.