CELTIC 3 HIBS 0
CELTIC returned to something approaching their best form as they upped the tempo in this well-merited victory over Hibs at Parkhead this afternoon.
Neil Lennon’s men were slick and dangerous against a solid Easter Road outfit who had no answer to the variety of attacks that swept down on them right from the start.
Jeremie Frimpong put in a devastating Man of the Match performance as goals from Callum McGregor, Albian Ajeti and Mohamed Elyounoussi made certain of three vital points in the quest for 10 in a row.
In the seventh minute, the Hoops broke the deadlock through a superb 25-yard drive from McGregor.
Scott Brown and Frimpong kept possession on the right before Ryan Christie joined in to roll a pass across to the lurking Scotland midfielder.
McGregor took a touch to tee up the shot before delivering an excellent left-foot effort which zipped low beyond the helpless Ofir Marciano at his left-hand post.
TAKING AIM…Callum McGregor draws back his left foot as he prepares to let fly.
BANG ON TARGET…McGregor watches his low drive sizzle past Ofir Marciano.
CHEERS…McGregor is congratulated by Ryan Christie and Jeremie Frimpong after his barrier-breaking strike.
SIGN OF THE TIMES…Callum McGregor celebrates his goal.
Four minutes later, Frimpong released Christie, but the playmaker’s shot was wayward and missed the target.
Christian Doidge managed to get onto a right-wing cross from Kevin Nisbet and the bustling frontman thumped in an angled 10-yard drive that just sizzled wide of Vasilis Barkas’ goal with the Greek keeper breathing a sigh of relief.
In the 34rd minute, Nisbet knocked over Shane Duffy as he raced into the box onto a Joe Newell pass and referee Steven McLean waved play on. However, the visiting striker’s finishing effort was wild as Celtic looked at the match official who saw nothing wrong with the barge into the defender.
Just before the half-hour mark, Frimpong latched onto a Kristoffer Ajer headed clearance from a Hibs corner-kick and raced into enemy territory at ferocious pace.
He picked out McGregor with a glorious crossfield ball and he passed it onto Greg Taylor coming in from the left, but his low ball flew past the waiting Ajeti and Elyounoussi and the threat was gone.
Frimpong was terrorising young Edinburgh left-back Josh Doig who just could not compete with the searing pace of the 19-year-old Dutchman.
SWISS HIT…Albian Ajeti (on left) fires in the second.
THREE CHEERS…Ajeti is congratulated by Kristoffer Ajer and Jeremie Frimpong.
In the 36th minute, Ajeti doubled the champions’ advantage – and was then taken off with what looked like a hamstring strain. Odsonne Edouard came on in his place.
The goal was wonderfully constructed by Christie and Frimpong and Elyounoussi poked the ball goalwards from 12 yards. Marciano threw himself to his right to paw the ball away, but it went straight to Ajeti who fired into the inviting net from close range.
It was the Swiss ace’s fifth goal for the Hoops, but it was clear he had a problem as he made his way back for the ball to be recentred.
Neil Lennon, with an eye to the Europa League play-off against Sarajevo in Bosnia on Thursday, took off the goalscorer and introduced Edouard.
Just before half-time, Brown swung over a long ball from the right into the penalty area, but Duffy’s angled looping header cleared the crossbar with Marciano on alert.
Moments later, Frimpong was so close to a third with rasping drive that flew over the bar. A goal would have been a just reward for an enterprising 45 minutes for the wing-back who carried so much threat as he constantly tormented the Hibs left-flank.
David Turnbull, the recent £3.25million signing from Motherwell, was introduced to the action at the start of the second-half for Christie.
BY THE LEFT…Mohamed Elyounoussi runs onto David Turnbull’s pass.
NUMBER THREE…Mohamed Elyounoussi slides the ball behind the helpless Ofir Marciano.
The Hoops started the second-half in whirlwind fashion as they dominated the ball immediately after Hibs had restarted and Nir Bitton tested his Israeli international team-mate Marciano with a long-range low drive, but the keeper managed to push the ball wide for a corner-kick.
In the 54th minute, Marciano was in action again as he threw himself to his right to parry a 12-yard drive from Brown and the keeper followed that up only moments later with a touch to send a 25-yarder from Turnbull over the bar for a corner-kick.
Frimpong continued to menace as he raided on the right flank and he bamboozled Lewis Stevenson on the hour mark as he cut in to fire in a left-foot drive, but it was blocked by a frantic defender and cleared.
In the 70th minute, Frimpong teed up McGregor and the midfielder walloped in a first-timer from just outside the box, but Marciano again proved equal to the threat and sprawled to the right to fist the ball to safety.
HAPPY DAZE…Mohamed Elyounoussi celebrates after his killer goal.
Elyounoussi slotted in the third goal in the 79th minute after a great run and pass from Turnbull. The ball was perfectly weighted as the youngster pushed it in front of Thursday’s Euro goal hero and he raced into the box from the left to slot the ball beyond the advancing Marciano.
Patryk Klimala and Olivier Ntcham then came on for Brown and Elyounoussi in the 82nd minute with Euro in mind.
Three minutes later, Ismaila Soro joined the throng when he came on for a run-out as he took the place of McGregor.
Job done and now all eyes are on Bosnia on Thursday.
TEAM: Barkas; Bitton, Duffy, Ajer; Frimpong, Brown (sub: Ntcham 82), Christie (sub: Turnbull 46), McGregor (sub: Soro 85), Taylor; Elyounoussi (sub: Klimala 82), Ajeti (sub: Edouard 37).