CELTIC 4 HIBS 1
SOUTH KOREAN action man Oh Hyeon-gyu starred in the Celtic Fast Show as the champions responded to Brendan Rodgers’ battle cry with a rampant display against Hibs at Parkhead tonight.
The 6ft-plus frontman claimed a double alongside efforts from Matt O’Riley, with an impressive header, and Luis Palma, from the penalty spot, to devastate their Edinburgh opponents.
Rodgers had raged at his players for a slow-motion first-half against St Johnstone at the weekend, but there was no stopping the Hoops on this performance as they came out the traps at a whirlwind pace.
Scotland’s title kings, bidding for their twelfth crown in 13 years, managed something inside five minutes that they couldn’t manage in an hour and a half at Easter Road – they scored a goal!
It was an extraordinarily simple strike as Palma swung in a right-wing corner-kick. The visiting defenders appeared to freeze as the ball dropped into the box and Cameron Carter-Vickers was the quickest to react with a first-time shot from eight yards.
Oh, leading the line with Kyogo Furuhashi on the substutues’ bench, reacted instinctively to flick out a foot from three yards and help it over the line leaving ex-Celt David Marshall bewildered and beaten.
In the 14th minute, the visitors lived dangerously after another excellent corner-kick delivery from Palma, this time from the left. A panicking Elie Youan desperately attempted to clear before sending a wayward effort over his own crossbar with the keeper motionless.
OH HAPPY DAY…striker Oh Hyeon-gyu celebrates another goal for Celtic.
Callum McGregor was revelling in the freedom to go forward with Tomoki Iwata taking over the anchorman man role in the middle of the park.
Oh missed a fabulous opportunity to claim a second goal in the 20th minute when Iwata and Alistair Johnston combined on the right before the full-back whipped in an inviting cross at the near post.
The powerhouse hitman mistimed his lunge forward, got the ball stuck under his left foot and the danger was averted.
Three minutes later Mikey Johnston set up McGregor about 35 yards out, but Marshall denied the skipper by diving full-length to his left to push his rasping drive to safety.
The half-hour mark zipped past without Joe Hart being required to get his gloves dirty.
O’Riley scored his eighth goal of the season to double the champions’ advantage in the 36th minute with a superby-timed header from eight yards.
Palma was the architect again as he bamboozled Lewis Miller on the left as he teased and tricked his way forward. He curled in a cross and the midfielder’s timing was exquisite as he arrived before Rocky Bushiri to rocket a header wider of the helpless Marshall.
MATT FINISH…midfield mastermind Matt O’Riley claimed his eighth goal of the campaign against Hibs.
Hart was brought into action only moments later when Youan raced away from Liam Scales onto a long through ball, but the keeper stood up and beat the drive away.
Normal service was resumed when Alistair Johnston popped up at the back post to get a touch on yet another cross from Palma, but Marshall was swift to knock the ball away for a corner-kick.
Carter-Vickers thought he had scored his first goal of the season when he deflected a close-range drive towards the net after a clever low ball from O’Riley. However, Marshall managed to scramble the ball off the line and the visitors escaped again.
Nat Phillips replaced Carter-Vickers at the start of the second-half with Rodgers taking no risks with the American World Cup defender.
Palma walloped in a third in the 50th minute from the penalty spot following an intervention from VAR after Lewis Stevenson had tripped Alistair Johnston. Referee John Beaton missed the incident, but was instructed to review the challenge from behind and quite correctly awarded the penalty.
The Honduran binned the staccato run-up that he utilised before his woeful attempt was saved by Liam Kelly in the 1-1 draw with Motherwell last month.
On this occasion, Palma raced up and blasted a ferocious effort high past Marshall who didn’t have an earthly.
HAPPY HONDURAN…Luis Palma made no mistake with a blistering penalty-kick.
Five minutes later, Oh made it 4-0 as he raced onto a long through pass from McGregor, won a physical tussle with Will Fish and then stroked an angled drive under the outrushing Marshall.
in 57 minutes, Anthony Ralston joined the action as he replaced Greg Taylor at left-back and six minutes later two-goal Oh left to a standing ovation with Kyogo Furuhashi coming on. Marco Tilio made an appearance at the same time as he took over from Mikey Johnston.
In the 72nd minute, Hibs netted a consolation goal when Christian Doidge knocked in a close-range drive after being set up following a low left wing cross from Jair Tavares who skipped away from Phillips far too easily.
McGregor went off for a well-earned rest with Paulo Bernardo coming on in the 81st minute.
Palma was thwarted by a magnificent high-flying save from Marshall to claw away a stunning 30-yard free-kick as the hosts searched for the perfect conclusion.
At the end of an eye-catching display, they had to settle for four goals and three well-earned points.
Now all eyes are on Rugby Park on Sunday for the High Noon showdown with Kilmarnock.
TEAM: Hart; A Johnston, Carter-Vickers (sub: Phillips 46), Scales, Taylor (sub: Ralston 57); Iwata, McGregor (sub: Bernardo 81), O’Riley; M Johnston (sub: Tilio 63), Oh (sub: Kyogo 63), Palma.