A resurgent Celtic attack was too much for Hibernian, as the Hoops came away 4-2 victors through an Odsonne Edouard brace and goals from Tom Rogic and Olivier Ntcham. Celtic were also denied several times by the woodwork, and Hibs were left open time and again at the back; a committed effort forward by Neil Lennon’s squad was ultimately their undoing.
Celtic were excellent going forward and their expected goal count must have been stratospheric. The partnership of Rogic and James Forrest ran the Hibs defense ragged and Celtic forwards and midfielders were constantly harassing their opponents and forced many turnovers. Scotland’s refereeing crisis was personified this week by Don Robertson, who gave two early yellows for soft fouls and then basically ignored everything the rest of the way. The stats will show you Hibs committed 18 fouls to Celtic’s two despite having nearly half the possession.
Our prediction of Hibs’ lineup was accurate save for Lennon’s inclusion of Emerson Hyndman (a poor man’s Gary Mackay-Steven who made zero impact) and Darren McGregor (for some real agricultural flavour) over Ryan Porteous at the back. Florian Kamberi was a nuisance and took his goal very well, but was caught offsides or committing needless fouls on defenders a number of times, which I’m sure Lennon loves to see. The midfield attackers of Boyle, Mallan and Horgan were industrious with Boyle getting on the scoresheet but aside from the two goals Hibs were easily handled by Celtic. Adam Bogdan made a couple of excellent saves and he was well partnered in goal by his woodwork.
Our prediction of the Celtic lineup was a player off. Callum McGregor started to the left of Edouard up front instead of Sinclair, who came on just 21 minutes in when Scott Brown was forced off with a leg injury. Two stories there; the first is Sinclair. In the match preview I said he’d have a part to play and that was correct but he was fairly anonymous, spurning his one real chance at goal with a brutal first touch from an incisive Forrest pass. Not a good sign and he has to be as frustrated as the rest of us. Happily, though, McGregor put in a quality performance in both a forward role early on and drifting back after the injury to Brown.
Now for Broony, who had a decent first 15 minutes back from injury before being subbed. Celtic took about 10 minutes to find their shape again, which in the context of the full 90 was not a concern. However, the eventual possibility of playing without their longtime captain is something that Celtic need to plan for, and it was pleasing to see a Scott Brown-less Celtic continue to play free-flowing, expressive football.
Odsonne Edouard took both his goals very well and should have had at least one more, denied by both keeper and woodwork. His strength and clever runs were evident and he got in between Hibs’ central defenders time and again. He was ably assisted by excellent performances from football friends James Forrest and Tom Rogic, who opened the scoring early on with a gorgeous strike off a half-turn.
Although possession numbers were more balanced than visitors to Celtic Park usually come away with, the Hoops’ defense didn’t seem much troubled. Boyata and Lustig were punished for slack-ish defending on Hibs scorers Kamberi and Boyle, respectively, but overall Boyata and especially Benkovic were very good and more positive about moving the ball forward.
Overall Celtic have a lot to be happy with. They now hold joint second with Kilmarnock (2-1 winners in Paisley), and remain three points behind league leaders Hearts (who beat Aberdeen 2-1 at Tynecastle). Edouard is rounding into form, and with three goals in his last two games, we are well on the way to forgetting all about Moussa Dembele.
(And for those of you who had a bet on the Cynic Match Preview’s predicted score of 4-2, congratulations!)
Next up for the Hoops is a trip to Germany for a Thursday night Europa League clash with RB Leipzig. Our man Graeme McKay will be making the short trip from Bavaria to give you all the flavour from Leipzig and in the crowd, while 90 Minute Cynic will have coverage all week on the usual platforms and during the game.