Scottish Premier League
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
(Stokes 4, Hooper 20 (pen) 39)
AN early strike from Anthony Stokes and a Gary Hooper double sent Celtic back to the top of the Scottish Premier League as the Hoops beat Hibernian 3-1.
The prolific partnership sealed the points in an entertaining but comfortable victory as Neil Lennon’s side returned to league action for the first time in a month.
Hibernian pulled back a consolation goal from the penalty spot in a match which saw the referee award three spot-kicks, but it was too little too late for the visitors.
The game started at a frantic pace, with Celtic almost taking the lead after just 30 seconds. Hooper played a quick one-two with Stokes but the Englishman couldn’t get his shot under Mark Brown.
The Hoops didn’t have to wait long, though, because the breakthrough came less than three minutes later through the former Hibs front man.
Emilio Izaguirre played the ball on to Celtic's front line, Hooper allowed it roll past him and Stokes directed a low shot into the far bottom corner of the net.
But despite the end-to-end start, Hibs were pinned back after the opening goal and Celtic enjoyed the majority of possession in the final third.
And the continued pressure on the visitors’ backline paid off when Hooper doubled Celtic’s advantage on 19 minutes. Scott Brown attempted to shoot after Mark Wilson’s header was cleared off the line, but Martin Scott brought him down.
The referee awarded a penalty and Hooper calmly converted to double the Hoops’ lead.
Celtic were playing an entertaining passing game just before the half hour mark and with Wilson being allowed a lot of space on the right wing it was helping the home side get the ball into the box.
It created chances for Brown, Kayal and James Forrest, and it wasn’t long before Celtic extended their tally, this time with Kayal picking up Izaguirre’s switch of play.
The Israeli made a short pass to Stokes inside the box who played in Hooper six yards from goal, and the Englishman converted Celtic’s third on 39 minutes.
The second half started at a quieter tempo compared to the first 45 minutes, but Celtic still looked comfortable in possession.
Hooper turned creator for Izaguirre who came close to extending Celtic’s lead after a delightful one-two. The left-back picked up the return pass but saw it spin inches past the far post after some excellent build-up play.
Neil Lennon’s men were dealt a blow, though, just after the hour mark when Hibs were awarded a penalty. Charlie Mulgrew’s tug at David Wotherspoon's shirt was enough for Euan Norris to give the spot kick and Liam Miller pulled one back for the visitors on 67 minutes.
Hibs looked more confident after their goal but Celtic continued to dominate the match. Wilson lobbed the ball into the path of substitute Kris Commons on 82 minutes, but the winger couldn't angle his effort and dragged it just past the post.
Celtic were awarded another penalty with five minutes remaining after Paul Hanlon brought down substitute Freddie Ljungberg, but Hooper put the spot-kick past the keeper’s left post and missed the opportunity to seal his hat-trick.
It didn’t make a difference to the final result, though, as Celtic cruised back to the top of the league with a comfortable 3-1 victory.
CELTIC (4-4-2): Forster; Wilson, Loovens (Rogne 46), Mulgrew, Izaguirre; Brown, Kayal (Ljungberg 81), Ledley, Forrest (Commons 78); Stokes, Hooper
Subs not used: Zaluska, Ki, Samaras, Juarez
HIBERNIAN (4-4-2): Brown; Hart, Hanlon, Booth, Stephens; Miller, Scott (Stevenson 72), Weatherspoon, Palsson; Vaz Te (Thornhill 72), Riordan (Sodje 51)
Subs not used: Divis, Murray, Nish, Duffy
Man of the match: Emilio Izaguirre