Tears of Pride
Celtic were big favourites to lift the Cup and with it complete the Treble. Inverness have been here before and have put Celtic out of the Cup on three previous occasions. However, it's a big ask and the bookies agree with Celtic's favourites tag. Scotland's number one side against this seasons eighteenth best side. It was pretty much a clean bill of health for Billy Dodds after a month of relative inactivity for his squad with just long term casualties Shane Sutherland and Tom Walsh missing. Celtic were without Aaron Mooy and Cameron Carter-Vickers but such is their wealth of talent it would matter not a jot. At the end of the day Celtic would win the treble and lift the Scottish Cup. Inverness stuck to their game plan and battled hard, but it was one scalp too many. However there was only tears of pride at the end.
After the pre-match entertainment enjoyed by the fans the game kicked off in bright sunshine. Celtic got the game underway in 21° Celsius. Could anyone outdo Man City who had earlier scored in 12 seconds in the FA Cup Final. The answer was an emphatic NO. A tentative opening from both sides as Inverness tried to play their way into the game with Celtic trying to force the pace. Fifteen minutes gone and the pattern remains the same with Celtic forcing the pace but over eager with their final ball. O'Riley bounced a volley wide in the first half chance of the game with almost nineteen minutes gone. A defensive misplaced pass offered Celtic an opportunity but Jota ran out of space as the defence recovered to shut him down. Ten minutes before the break Ridgers made his first save as he dropped on a low strike from 15 yards. A minute later Celtic went in front when Kyogo smashed in from eight yards. He almost added a second five minutes before the break but he chipped wide of Ridgers right hand post as Celtic turned the screw.
Half Time: 1-0
Inverness were looking to get forward more at the start of the second half but Celtic were still dominating possession although Nathan Shaw was a half yard away from getting on the end of a low ball into the Celtic box. However Celtic were starting to flow better and the danger signs were there for Inverness. In the 65th minute Celtic doubled their advantage. They rode a couple of rash challenges before Abada stroked the ball into the net. VAR took a look and after some deliberation the goal was given, by mm looking at VAR. It was tight, but 2-0 it was. Ridgers made amends for a botched clearance when he clutched a shot out of the top corner from O'Riley. Cue plenty of substitutions with the game seemingly safe. Inverness got a lifeline with five minutes to go and it was a replica goal from Dan Mackay from a Wallace Duffy cross (think semi-final v Falkirk). Absolutely tremendous bulleted header again from Dan. Ridgers saved with his legs as Celtic looked to finish the tie off through Haksabanovic. They did moments later when Jota scored from close range after good work by Abada. Game over, maybe Ange's last one in charge but Celtic march on and we head back to the Championship with our heads held high.
Full Time: 3-1
Best for Inverness on a difficult day was Wallace Duffy. What an invitingly sumptuous cross for Dan Mackay to power in a diving header. Cammy Harper on the other flank was equally impressive against Celtic's wide players and in midfield David Carson and Sean Welsh battled hard to stem the possession that Celtic were always going to dominate. We struggled up front working off scraps but substitute Dan Mackay scored that brilliant late power header to give us hope, albeit only fleeting. In general our defence stood firm for large parts of the game, seemingly working to a plan. Much better than many Premiership teams fared this season. Nobody hid in this game but we were restricted to what we could do by a quality treble winning side. Blood, sweat and tears of pride.
As the season draws to a close we will not see so many of these guys here next season, but it has been an abstract pleasure reporting on our once again rollercoaster of a season.
See you all back refreshed for 23/24.
Duplication Dan, what a cross, what a goal! Stunning!
What they said on BBC Sport
Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou: "I'm very proud. It's been an extraordinary season by the boys. We caught people by surprise last year. It's always hard defending things. The challenge was, 'can we be better this year and we push on?' "We've won the trophy that eluded us last year, so it feels great, it's the last day of the season. It's an occasion and it was nice to finish it off that way."
Inverness Caley Thistle manager Billy Dodds: "I was always going to have a go but we lost goals at bad times. I'm so proud of the boys. They gave me everything. "Talks are ongoing (on a new contract) and we hope to get things tied up, so we'll see what happens over the next few days. I love working with these players and you can see the team spirit we have."