Wednesday, February 6, 2019
Celtic Park, Glasgow
(Christie 24, Burke 63)
CELTIC maintained their perfect start to 2019 with a convincing 2-0 victory against Hibernian tonight (Wednesday). The win saw the Hoops successfully defend their six-point lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership, in a match that marked Callum McGregor’s 50th game of the season for club and country.
Brendan Rodgers’ men moved the ball about with intent in the opening stages, and fought hard for possession in the middle of the pitch. On four minutes, Ollie Burke and Callum McGregor linked up well on the edge of the box, before the attacking midfielder’s powerful left-foot shot was blocked on its way to goal.
One minute later, Jeremy Toljan looked dangerous on the right flank when he sent a fizzing low ball across goal that was duly cleared by Paul Hanlon.
Hibs dealt well with the early pressure, as the Hoops continued to press via some great passing play between Toljan and Timo Weah on the right, and through McGregor, Ryan Christie and Scott Sinclair on the left.
Playing on the right-side of midfield in place of the injured James Forrest, Weah looked equally confident defending at the opposite end.
On the 10-minute mark, Florian Kamberi carved a half-chance for the visitors, but the striker’s low ball was cleared at the front post by Dedryck Boyata.
Four minutes after that, Christie dispossessed Mark Milligan 30-yards from goal, drove forward, and sent a shot high and wide of the target.
Moments later again, and McGregor showed great strength to turn his man on the half-way line, before lacing a well-weighted ball through to Weah, but the 18-year-old’s shot was matched by Ofir Marciano between the sticks.
The Scottish champions continued to push for an opener, and were rewarded on the 24th minute when another neat one-two between Toljan and Weah was rounded off with a smart cut-back to Christie. The 23-year-old steadied himself with a touch inside, before firing home across the keeper.
From there, the Hoops continued to press with similar intensity, and as the half-hour mark approached, Christie sent a wonderful ball over the top for Sinclair. The left winger struggled to get the ball under control, allowing Milligan to clear as far as McGregor.
The 25-year-old then sent the ball back into the danger area towards Weah, whose deflected shot forced another fine save from Marciano.
Brendan Rodgers’ side went into the break with a deserved lead, and returned with the same hunger in the final third.
Five minutes after the interval, Weah and Toljan again combined on the right, but Sinclair couldn’t convert the 24-year-old full-back’s mid-height cross. On 56 minutes, Burke followed a bursting run down the left channel with a near-post drive, again handled well by Marciano.
Boyata might have doubled Celtic’s lead on the hour mark when he met an out-swinging Christie free-kick with his head, but Burke made sure of the Hoops’ second minutes later.
A typically deft, defence-splitting pass from Christie found the feet of the 21-year-old, who lifted the ball over the goalkeeper with the help of a deflection off Darren McGregor, and sent the Paradise faithful into a frenzy.
The Scottish champions enjoyed a long spell of concerted pressure and possession, before introducing Mikey Johnston for Sinclair and Nir Bitton for Boyata with just over 15 minutes of normal time to go.
It looked like Vakoun Bayo might have made his debut at Paradise as he warmed up on the touchline, but a subsequent injury to Izaguirre instead saw Jonny Hayes replace the Honduran left-back.
Celtic saw out the clock comfortably to secure maximum points and successfully defend their six-point lead at the top of the SPFL table. Likewise, the Hoops’ continue their immaculate start to 2019, with six wins out of six, and 16 goals without reply.
CELTIC: Bain; Toljan, Boyata (Bitton 74), Simunovic, Izaguirre (Hayes 82), Brown, McGregor, Sinclair (Johnston 73), Christie, Weah; Burke
Subs not used: Gordon, Lustig, Bayo, Henderson
HIBS: Maricano, McGregor, Milligan, Hanlon, Gray (Johnson 64), Slivka, Gauld (Mallan 59), Mackie, Shaw, Kamberi, Shaw (McNulty 46)
Subs not used: Dabrowski, Nelom, Bigirimana, Omeonga