Capital disappointment for Celts
By: Mark Henderson on 29 Dec, 2012 17:02
Scottish Premier League
Easter Road, Edinburgh
Saturday, December 29, 2012
CELTIC'S five-match winning streak in the SPL came to an end at Easter Road with a frustrating 1-0 defeat to Hibernian. Leigh Griffiths' early strike proved to be the difference between the sides as the Hoops' final fixture of 2012 ended in disappointment.
While the champions dominated possession and created several openings, they were unable to find a way past Ben Williams, who had an inspired afternoon between the sticks for the hosts.
There were three changes to the team that defeated Dundee on Boxing Day, with Thomas Rogne, Mikael Lustig and Lassad coming into the starting XI at the expense of Charlie Mulgrew, Beram Kayal and Tony Watt.
After a frenetic opening, it was the Hoops who had the first effort on target with Lustig firing a free-kick on target from 25 yards which Williams dealt with comfortably.
But 60 seconds later the hosts made the breakthrough. Griffiths fastened on to a long ball over the top, rounded the advancing Fraser Forster and finished expertly from an acute angle.
Celtic almost fashioned an immediate response as Georgios Samaras' deft shot hit the inside the post following Lustig's cutback. However, the offside flag was raised in any event.
It was end-to-end stuff, and the champions suffered another scare shortly after. Eoin Doyle met Griffiths' in-swinging free-kick, only to head weakly at Forster.
At the other end, Samaras slid an inviting ball across goal. Gary Hooper connected with it but Williams produced a super stop to divert the ball on to the post. Another offside flag was forthcoming anyway.
A switch to a back four saw Celtic begin to establish control of proceedings. Rogne headed over from Lustig's corner and Brown's cross from the right narrowly evaded Lassad.
Gary Deegan was the first player to enter the book for hauling down Efe Ambrose on the edge of the box following a mazy run forward from the Nigerian. Lassad took the free-kick but fired over.
While the pressure was mounting, the Hoops' threat was limited to a succession of corners. And just before the break, Doyle nearly capitalised on Rogne's charged-down clearance.
Celtic emerged from the interval with intent and purpose as they searched for a leveller. Lustig was a willing outlet on the right, sending several inviting crosses into the box, with no takers.
Meanwhile, Pat Felon's side looked to hit on the break and Doyle fluffed his lines when presented with the ball in the box.
Despite Celtic's dominance, clear chances were scarce. Substitute Kayal did eventually get a clear sight of goal with just over 15 minutes remaining but he failed to hit the target from 18 yards.
Victor Wanayama also came close from distance before Williams made a smart stop from Paddy McCourt driven cross-shot. An off-balance Brown put the rebound over.
As the pressure mounted in the closing stages, Ambrose came agonisingly close to restoring parity as somehow he flicked over from inside the six-yard box.
Hibs were under siege now. Hooper's deflected shot forced a wonderful save from Williams before the keeper was called into action once again, saving Kayal's effort at the second attempt.
However, it was to be a frustrating afternoon for Neil Lennon's men as the hosts withstood the late pressure to earn the three points.
CELTIC (3-4-1-2) Forster; Wilson, Rogne (Kayal 70), Ambrose; Lustig, Brown, Wanyama, Izaguirre; Hooper, Samaras, Lassad (McCourt 66)
Not Used: Zaluska, McGeouch, Watt, Chalmers, Kidd
HIBERNIAN (4-5-1) Williams; Clancy, McPake, Hanlon, Stevenson; Doyle, Deegan, Taiwo (Handling 87) Claros, Cairney; Griffiths (Wotherspoon 72)
Not Used: Murdoch, Maybury, Caldwell, Kuqi, Donaldson
Website Man of the Match: Mikael Lustig