CELTIC 1 HIBS 0
IT was a case of ecstasy and agony for matchwinner Leigh Griffiths at Parkhead this afternoon. And Craig Gordon suffered a worrying knee injury on the half time whistle which looks like ending his season.
The comeback striker scored the only goal of the game against his bouhood idols – and was forced to leave the field nine minutes later with what looked like a calf injury.
The lively frontman struck in the 27th minute for the goal that downed Neil Lennon’s persistent Easter Road outfit at a sell-out Celtic Park.
Kieran Tierney, exceptional throughout a hectic 90 minutes, burst clear on the left wing before picking out Griffiths at the far post.
The hitman didn’t hesitate as he slammed the ball goalwards and, despite the best efforts of Darren McGregor, the ball made it across the line for the effort that keeps the Hoops 11 points clear at the top of the league from Aberdeen.
However, Griffith’s joy didn’t last long as he was forced to leave the action and the attacker looked distraught as he headed for the tunnel.
Moussa Dembele came on in his place for his first appearance for the club this year.
Earlier, Griffiths had come so close to helping the champions break the deadlock with a free-kick in the 16th minute.
Keeper Ofir Marciano managed to block the difficult shot, but the ball dropped right at the feet of Scotty Sinclair, unmarked in front of goal.
Unbelievably, the Englishman rushed his shot and fired wildly against the crossbar when it looked as though he must score.
It was a typical clash of the greens with clever, astute play from both teams as they battled for possession and sought out openings.
Craig Gordon wasn’t asked to do too much in the first-half, but he had to look lively to thwart Brandon Barker in the 21st minute.
Unfortunately, the regular No.1 didn’t reappear for the second period after sustaining an injury and Dorus de Vries took his place. However, the Dutchman, once again, proved to be a more than capable deputy.
Marciano saved well from a free-kick with Sinclair and Dembele menacing while James Forrrest thumped one waywardly over the bar.
In the 71st minute, the winger was replaced by Eboue Kouassi as Brendan Rodgers attempted to solidify in the middle of the park where John McGinn was working overtime to inspire his team-mates.
Five minutes later, Dembele swivelled to thunder in a shot, but his effort was well saved by the sprawling Marciano.
At this stage, the Easter Road men still possessed a threat and believed they could take more points off the champions after back-to-back 2-2 draws in the Premiership.
McGinn tried his luck, but De Vries was alert to the danger and got down swiftly to turn his drive round the post for a corner-kick.
Celtic strangled the game as it edged towards its conclusion to make sure three points would remain in the east end of Glasgow.
However, a game refereed by Bobby Madden is hardly likely to pass without some sort of controversial decision from the whistler.
Dembele was clearly fouled by an opponent as he tried to turn and run onto a through ball. Madden blew his whistle and everyone inside the ground waited for the inevitable free-kick.
Instead, the dodgy match official booked the French ace for diving and left everyone – Hibs players included – more than somewhat baffled.
In the end, though, the champions moved another three points closer to their seventh successive crown and that was all that mattered.
TEAM; Gordon (sub: De Vries 46): Boyata, Simunovic, Ajer; Brown, Ntcham, Tierney; Forrest (sub: Kouassi 71), McGregor, Sinclair; Griffiths (sub: Dembele 36).
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