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  • Disappointment as Hoops edged out at Easter Road

    Disappointment as Hoops edged out at Easter Road

    By: Mark Henderson on 21 Apr, 2018 14:30

  • Scottish Premiership
    Easter Road, Edinburgh
    Saturday, April 21, 2018

    HIBERNIAN...2
    (MacLaren 25, Slivka 80)

    CELTIC...1
    (Edouard 87)

    CELTIC failed in their first chance to clinch the title, going down 2-1 to Hibernian at Easter Road. The Hoops needed a win to seal a seventh successive championship but were undone by goals in either half from Jamie MacLaren and substitute Vykintas Slivka.

    Odsonne Edouard’s composed finish in the closing stages proved no more than consolation as Neil Lennon’s men held out to secure the spoils and boost their bid to finish in the runners-up spot.

    Should results elsewhere go in their favour this weekend, Brendan Rodgers’ side could still be crowned champions, but if not, their next opportunity to claim seven-in-a-row will be in next weekend’s Glasgow derby in Paradise.   

    Leigh Griffiths made his first Celtic start in almost three months, having made four substitute appearances since picking up a calf injury in a 1-0 win over the Easter Road side at the end of January.

    The striker’s inclusion was one of two changes to the team that routed Rangers last weekend in the Scottish Cup semi-final, with Jack Hendry also coming into the starting XI. Mikael Lustig and Moussa Dembele were the two players to drop out.  

    Griffiths’ eagerness to make up for lost time was evident as he tried his luck inside 60 seconds, dragging a shot wide from distance after an incisive Celtic breakaway.

    The home side responded swiftly. Dylan McGeouch played in Florian Kamberi but Craig Gordon was out quickly to block his angled drive. From the resultant corner, Kamberi put an acrobatic attempt over.

    With play raging from end to end in the opening exchanges, the next chance fell for the Hoops. Kristoffer Ajer stormed forward from defence, dancing past several challenges before picking out Griffiths. He teed-up the onrushing Tom Rogic with a first-time pass but goalkeeper Ofir Marciano managed to make the save and then react quickly to push away Griffiths’ rebound.   

    After the open, pulsating start to the contest, the Bhoys looked to be exerting greater control. Around the quarter-hour mark, some lovely interplay between Rogic and Brown fashioned the next opening, the Australian eventually curling wide with the inside of his foot.  

    In the 25th minute, however, the home side broke the deadlock. As Hendry attempted to bring down Gordon’s lofted pass, Lewis Stevenson nipped in and flashed a low cross into the box which MacLaren converted at the far post.

    Buoyed by the goal, Hibs threatened again when, following Swanson’s corner, Gordon had to claw Dedryck Boyata’s attempted clearance off the line.

    Brendan Rodgers’ side, while engineering plenty of promising positions, were unable to deliver a telling final pass or shot trouble Marciano as they searched for a leveller.  

    And when they did pierce the home defence four minutes before the interval, Olivier Ntcham couldn’t keep his effort down after Tierney had picked out his run.

    A combination of Paul Hanlon and Efe Ambrose then denied Griffiths, charging down his shot at the near post, after good work from Forrest on the right.

    But the last word of a breathless first period came from the hosts, Hanlon glancing a header wide of the far post from a free-kick.   

    Scott Sinclair was introduced in place for Ntcham at the start of the second half to add some further firepower to the Hoops' attack. 

    It was the Edinburgh side, however, that threatened first as Swanson burst through the middle and brought out a low save from Gordon.

    As the Celts adjusted to the tactical switch they began to grow in ascendency. Ten minutes into the second half, Griffiths’ drilled pass dropped invitingly for Rogic in the box, but Marciano again came to his side’s rescue, blocking the midfielder’s effort.

    With the capital side unable to clear, Griffiths’ rebound was charged down by the a host of Hibs defenders, before McGregor was to direct a volley on target from Forrest’s delivery.

    Although the Hoops were now enjoying most of the ball, Neil Lennon’s men were still a threat on the counter and Kamberi dragged a shot wide after a weaving run.

    After McGregor fired over from Rogic’s pass, the champions’ frustrations were compounded as the home side doubled their tally with 10 minutes remaining on the clock, Slivka heading home Kamberi’s cross from the right.

    Edouard provided a glimmer of hope, bursting through the middle and coolly finding the far corner, setting up a grandstand finish. But, despite a late flurry of pressure, Celtic couldn't grab the equaliser. 

    CELTIC (3-5-1-1) Gordon; Hendry, Ajer, Boyata; Forrest (Roberts 69), Ntcham (Sinclair 46), Brown, McGregor, Tierney; Rogic, Griffiths (Edouard 65)
    Not Used: Bain, Simunovic, Musonda, Kouassi

    HIBERNIAN (4-4-2) Marciano; Whittaker, Ambrose, Hanlon,  Stevenson; Boyle, McGeouch, McGinn, Swanson (Barker 64); Kamberi, MacLaren (Slivka 73)
    Not Used: Bell, Murray, Porteous, Stirling, Allan

    Website Man of the Match: Kristoffer Ajer
     

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