CELTIC 3 HIBS 1
POWERHOUSE striker Oh Hyeon-gyu proved timing is everything in this game at a rainswept Parkhead this afternoon.
The game was deadlocked at 1-1 with the minutes ticking down when Celtic’s South Korean international striker, a second-half substitute, made his presence felt.
In the 81st minute, David Turnbull swirled in a corner-kick and Oh was the man to get the vital touch to make certain the champions would remain nine points ahead at the Premiership pinnacle with nine games to go.
The towering attacker demonstrated his awesome strength and desire to get to the ball and his diving head-flick thundered into the net to get the goal the home side so richly deserved.
It was also Big Oh’s first home league goal for the club after his January arrival to add to his efforts against St Mirren in the 5-1 Scottish Cup win and the league victory by the same scoreline against the same opponents in Paisley.
HEAD BHOY…Oh Hyeon-gyu flies through the air to thump in Celtic’s second past David Marshall.
It had been a fascinating – and often frustarting – encounter with Josh Campbell putting 10-man Hibs ahead with a controversial penalty-kick and Filipe Jota levelling with another spot-kick – this one not hotly disputed.
And Sead Haksabanovic, with his fifth strike of the campaign, made certain with a third in the fourth minute of stoppage time.
The Hoops started brightly and attacked on both flanks and there was an early chance for Matt O’Riley who had a close-range drive deflected for a left-wing corner-kick.
Daizen Meada was then just a bit slow to react to an inviting sweeping angled cross from Alistair Johnston which drifted past David Marshall’s right-hand post.
Reo Hatate’s game did not last beyond the 13th minute when he had to come off with a mysterious injury as Turnbull was immediately thrown on as a replacement.
There was a reprieve for the visitors in the 16th minute when Carl Starfelt thumped a header against the crossbar and over as Marshall breathed a sight of relief.
O’Riley flighted in a superb let-wing croenr-kick and the Swede came in on the blindside behind Cameron Carter-Vickers to flick an effort high past the stranded keeper. However, the ball clattered off the woodwork and bounced to safety.
Four minutes later, Johnston and O’Riley combined on the right to send Jota scampering into a good area. The Portuguese winger whipped in a cross and Kyogo Furuhashi arrived smack on time to divert an attempt towards the net.
The prolific Hoops striker was denied, though, as ex-Celt Marshall pulled off a remarkable reflex save to push the ball to the right.
It was a frantic start to the encounter and it continued in the 24th minute when Hibs were reduced to 10 men with the dismissal of Elie Youan who had been booked earlier.
On this occasion, he connected with Carter-Vickers with a high boot and referee Steven McLean did not hesitate to produce a second yellow to banish the offender.
SITDOWN STRIKER…Kyogo Furuhashi suffered a frustrating afternoon against Hibs.
Just after the half-hour mark, Kyogo again tested Marshall following a ball in from Jota and again the netminder was equal to the challenge.
Astoundingly, 10-man Hibs went ahead in the 39th minute via yet another controversial penalty-kick decision after an interruption from VAR following a coming together with Starfelt and Paul Hanlon.
It looked innocent enough, but ref McLean was instructed to review the incident and there was no surprise when the match official returned to the pitch to point to the spot.
It’s been a recurring theme at Parkhead this season and followed some baffling spot-kick decisions in the favour of the likes of Dundee United and Ross County.
The Easter Road men were the grateful recipients on this occasion and Campbell rolled the ball past Joe Hart who went the wrong way.
It was a stop-start confrontation with the visitors more than happy to slow down play and take their time at throw-ins and deadball efforts.
The Hoops struggled to build the momentum to reach their usual level of intensity and there also appeared to be a lack of ingenuity in the build-up.
BARE FACTS…Oh Hyeon-gyu is missing his shirt as he celebrates his goal against Hibs.
Moments before the half-time whistle, Jota fired a drive off target and into the sidenet which just about typified the frustrating opening period for the champions.
Callum McGregor got the ball rolling right at the start of the second-half with a hopeful left-foot shot from outside the box which carried past Marshall’s post.
There was more drama in the 53rd minute when Jota slotted the equaliser low past Marshall from the penalty spot.
The match official didn’t hesitate to award the penalty-kick after a foul from Hanlon on Carter-Vickers following a corner-kick. The Hibs defender earned a yellow card for his misdemeanour.
With Hatate off the pitch and Aaron Mooy crocked and out of the squad, the Portuguese maverick wasn’t slow to take the responsibility with the award.
On the hour mark, Greg Taylor, Maeda and O’Riley made way with Alexandro Bernabei, Liel Abada and Oh Hyeon-gyu coming on as Ange Postecoglou revitalised his line-up.
BOOKED…Oh Hyeon-gyu is about to be booked by referee Steven McLean after removing his shirt during his goal celebrations.
The champions surged down in as the rain continued to swirl around the ground and they were denied a second goal in the Turnbull released Kyogo with a superb through pass and the Japanese frontman sped through to dink the ball away from the advancing Marshall.
The Celtic fans were already acclaiming a goal, but Lewis Stevenson managed to race back and hack the netbound effort to safety.
It was turning into an extremely tense confrontation and Abada had an opportunity, but blazed the ball off target when he should have at least hit the target.
Wave after wave of green-and-white pressure cascaded down on the visitors’ rearguard as the visitors gallantly repelled the raids to frustrate their opponents.
In the 81st minute, South Korean striker Oh claimed his first league goal at Parkhead to send the home fans into raptures of delight.
Turnbull swung in yet another corner-kick and the powerhouse frontman made the perfect connection to send the ball beyond the helpless Marshall.
Two minutes later, Postecoglou sent on Saed Haksabanovic for Kyogo who had been unfortunate not to add to his 26-goal haul.
Moments later, Marshall appeared to pull down Abada as the Hoops broke forward again. Referee McLean pointed to the spot and was instructed by VAR to look again at the flashpoint.
Unlike the earlier decision, the match official changed his mind and ruled out the initial decision.
No-one was surprised.
Not that it mattered in the end with the Hoops continuing their surge towards a second successive title.
TEAM: Hart; Johnston, Carter-Vickers, Starfelt, Taylor (sub: Bernabei 60); Hatate (sub: Turnbull 13), McGregor, O’Riley (sub: Oh 60); Jota, Kyogo (sub: Haksabanovic 83), Meada (sub: Abada 60).