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Apr 21, 2013

Celtic clinches league title

Celtic clinched the Clydesdale Bank Premier League title with a 4-1 win Sunday against Inverness at Celtic Park on Sunday.

The Hoops went into the game needing a point but they did not come to life until after a dull, goalless first half when a Gary Hooper double and a strike by Joe Ledley in between, got the celebrations under way.

Georgios Samaras, on for Anthony Stokes, completed the scoring for Celtic with a virtuoso goal two minutes from time as Aaron Doran netted a consolation for the visitors.

"It's a relief. I think it's always nervy toward the end," captain Scott Brown said on Sky Sports 4. "It's always nervy going towards the end and just getting over the line, but the main thing is we've managed to do it and we've brought the cup home."

Celtic's title challenge was strengthened by Rangers' demotion to the Third Division at the start of the season, but Brown pointed to Celtic's European exertions -- where the club reached the last 16 of the Champions League -- as proof that it has not had an easy ride.

"It's still been hard for us, we've had the Champions League during the week and then on to playing weekend games is hard," he said. "We've been lucky enough Rangers weren't in the league but the main thing is we have won this league and it's been a great season."

Celtic manager Neil Lennon watched from the stands, serving the first of a three-game ban, and would have expected better in the first half in which his side was a little sluggish.

"Winning the league is a very special moment, I want the players to enjoy it," he said.

Hooper, Celtic's top scorer this season, is keen to celebrate the league triumph but is aware Celtic will need to refocus for its Scottish Cup final against Hibernian on May 26.

"The main thing is celebrating this first and then the final on the 26th and win that and do the double," he said.

Victor Wanyama's clever pass released Hooper in the 23rd minute, but when he lobbed Caley goalkeeper Antonio Reguero there was time for Warren to race back to head over for a corner. Almost 10 minutes later Stokes had the ball in the net but the flag was up to stifle the cheers.

Emilio Izaguirre replaced James Forrest for the start of the second half with Charlie Mulgrew moving into midfield and Daniel Devine came on for Gary Warren five minutes after the restart. There was some agitation which increased further when Hoops defender Efe Ambrose headed a Kris Commons corner over the bar from close range in the 56th minute.

Four minutes later, however, Celtic got the breakthrough. It was all too easy for Commons to play the ball into the box to Hooper, who held off Graeme Shinnie before driving low past the helpless Reguero from 12 yards. Ledley then set up the overlapping Mikael Lustig before getting on the end of the return pass to guide the ball past Reguero and into the far corner. Celtic Park came to life as the home fans vociferously began the count down to the final whistle.

In the 70th minute, with Celtic piling forward looking for more goals, Reguero did well to parry Lustig's deflected shot from the right before the move ended with Wanyama blasting over the crossbar.

However, the hosts were not to be denied and three minutes later Hooper's fancy flick from Commons' driven cross from the left ended up behind Reguero for No. 3.

Celtic dropped its guard for a few moments, allowing Caley a couple of chances but Samaras finished the game in fine style with a solo effort which ended with him crashing a shot from a tight angle in off the crossbar. Doran's goal in the final seconds of injury time, as he capitalized on slack defending, was a mere footnote.

Information from Press Association was used in this report.

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