|Celtic had to pack away the champagne into the team bus today as Hibs spoilt the visitors plans for a Premiership title party. Hibs decided not to be the whipping boys are were well worth their 2-1 win at Easter Road. A high-energy Hibs side pressed the visitors to great effect and took the lead in the 24th minute through attacker Jamie Maclaren. Try as they might in an enthralling encounter, Brendan Rodgers' men could not get back on level terms and in the 79th minute Hibs' substitute Vykintas Slivka headed in a second. Hoops substitute Odsonne Edouard, on for Leigh Griffiths, reduced the deficit with four minutes left, but Hibs survived to take three valuable points in their quest to finish second. Favourable results could still see Brendan Rodgers' side crowned champions this weekend, but if not they can clinch it against old rivals Rangers at Parkhead next week, a scenario which the authorities were keen to avoid.
However, today belonged to Hibs, who threatened from the first whistle in a whirlwind start. In the second minute, after visiting midfielder Tom Rogic was robbed by Dylan McGeouch, Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon saved from Florian Kamberi's close-range effort before the Hibs striker volleyed Danny Swanson's corner over the bar. Moments later, following a swift Celtic counter, Hibs keeper Ofir Marciano thwarted both Rogic and Griffiths within seconds. The game swung from end to end but in the 24th minute the home side forged ahead. More intelligent pressing saw Hibs gain possession and left-back Stevenson swung a cross in from the left past Gordon and Dedryck Boyata to allow Maclaren to knock the ball in from a couple of yards. Celtic wobbled and Gordon reacted quickly when the ball came off Boyata from a Hibs corner and headed for the net. The champions-elect regained their composure and threat and in the 41st minute midfielder Olivier Ntcham flashed a pass from Kieran Tierney over the bar from 12 yards. However, just seconds before half-time Easter Road defender Paul Hanlon headed a John McGinn free-kick just past the post.
Scott Sinclair replaced Ntcham for the start of the second half and the game resumed its frantic first-half pattern. Gordon dived to catch Swanson's long-range drive, his save bettered by Marciano at the other end when he raced from goal to deny Rogic, as Celtic piled on the pressure. Edouard came on for Griffiths and Patrick Roberts replaced James Forrest as Rodgers tried another route to goal. As Celtic threw men forward, Hibs broke with menace and with 11 minutes remaining a cross from Kamberi was met at the near post by Slivka, on for Maclaren seven minutes earlier, and he glanced a header past Gordon. The Glasgow side were rattled and defender Kristoffer Ajer had to scoop the ball from his own goal line after a mix-up in the defence. With four minutes left, Edouard burst into the Hibs box and slotted past Marciano to reignite Celtic's hopes but the home side held out for five minutes of added time.
Images from the game available on Sportpix
Ger Harley (ger@scottishfitba net)
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