HIBS 0 CELTIC 0
CELTIC sparkled across Edinburgh as they thumped Hearts at Tynecastle last weekend. Alas, they struggled in a scoreless stalemate against Hibs in the capital this afternoon.
It was an unexpected all-change in the form of the champions who were a massive disappointment as they carelessly threw away two points for the second time this season after an identical scoreline against St Johnstone in August.
They blew the chance to go 10 points clear at the Premiership pinnacle in a mystifyingly inept display.
Celtic wore their all-black strip for the occasion. Their mood matched their kit at the end of the day.
They stirred from their lethargy in the fading moments, but by then it was too little too late. The nearest they came was a shot from substitute James Forrest that crashed against the crossbar.
That, unfortunately, was as good as it got for a team who will face St Mirren at Parkhead on Wednesday night. The Paisley side prepared for the contest with a resounding 4-0 victory over the Perth club while the champions toiled in Edinburgh.
MISSED CHANCE…James Forrest flashes a drive wide of the post with David Marshall helpless.
Paulo Bernardo showed a flash of his goal menace in the 18th minute when the Hoops snapped onto a slack pass by Rocky Bushiri. Matt O’Riley was involved in the build-up and the ball was worked to the on-loan Benfica midfielder who thumped a shot at goal from outside the box.
David Marshall was struggling as the right-footed effort whipped just wide of the target.
Alistair Johnston was then pole-axed when he took the full brunt of a Bushiri clearance and had to have treatment before groggily getting back to his feet.
Shortly afterwards, the Canadian World Cup right-back was forced to leave the field with Anthony Ralston taking his place in the 26th minute.
IT’S A KNOCK-OUT…Alistair Johnston is forced to leave the field after being hit on the face with the ball.
It was a fairly low-tempo opening first-half for both teams with the Hoops possibly suffering the after-effects of their strenous midweek Champions League encounter with Atletico Madrid.
Callum McGregor had a chance to get in a shot after Luis Palma seized onto another stray pass from the home defence. The skipper lashed a drive at goal that was beaten away by Marshall and Palma couldn’t take advantage of the rebound as he was high and wide with his attempt.
Marshall denied his old club the breakthrough goal just before the interval when the ball broke to Daizen Maeda after a shot from Brenardo had been smuggled clear.
The flying winger looked certain to tuck the ball into the net from 10 yards, but the veteran former Scotland international keeper managed to get across his line to spread himself to foil the Japanese international.
The lacklustre effort typified the Hoops’ first-half display that lacked the intensity of recent performances. Despite 65 per cent of possession, the champions had failed to prise open the home rearguard on too many occasions. There was much for Brendan Rodgers to rectify in his half-time observations with his players.
HOLD ON…Greg Taylor challenges Jair Tavares to a high ball.
Liam Scales was yellow-carded by referee Alan Muir for a wayward challenge on Lewis Miller four minutes after the interval.
In the 51st minute, Martin Boyle missed from close range after the defence failed to deal with a diagonal left-wing cross from Jordan Obita. It should have been a wake-up call for the visitors.
David Turnbull and Forrest were introduced to the action as replacements for the ineffective Bernardo and Maeda in the 57th minute as Rodgers attempted to enliven his listless line-up.
Moments later, Kyogo was clattered by Miller to win a free-kick in an excellent position, but it was wasted by Palma who fired his effort into the defensive wall.
Greg Taylor was next to be shown a yellow card after a foul on Miller as the visitors continued to fail to pick up the rhythm of the contest.
Rodgers looked again to his bench to revitalise his misfiring outfit when he put on Oh Hyeon-gyu and forgotten man Mikey Johnston for Kyogo and Palma in the 65th minute.
It was the Republic of Ireland international winger’s first top-side appearance in 18 months while the South Korean frontman was searching for his initial strike of the campaign.
HEAD BHOY…Cameron Carter-Vickers ignores Martin Boyle’s high boot to clear a dangerous cross.
Johnston almost capped a memorable comeback with a sensational goal as he cut in from the lft to thunder in a right-foot drive from just outside the box, but Marshall took off in spectacular fashion to push the ball to safety.
Ten minutes from time, the champions were right out of luck when Forrest smashed a shot against the crossbar. Hibs failed to clear a left-wing corner-kick and the evergreen winger caught the ball with his right foot to leave Marshall standing, but it clattered against the woodwork and rebounded to safety.
The veteran winger could only stand with his head in his hands as the chance was lost.
In the fading moments, Forrest was off target with a close-range effort that edged agonisingly past the post with Marshall stranded.
It was the story of Celtic’s day.
TEAM: Hart; Johnston (sub: Ralston 26), Carter-Vickers, Scales, Taylor; O’Riley, McGregor, Bernardo (sub: Turnbull 57); Maeda (sub: Forrest 57), Kyogo (sub: Oh 65), Palma (sub: M Johnston 65).