Celtic 3-2 Hibernian

Last updated : 10 December 2005 By Kevin Smith
Celtic took the three points today in a thoroughly entertaining match at Celtic Park today. John Hartson scored two of Celtic's goals, with Shaun Maloney getting the other via a free-kick.

Celtic are now ten points ahead of Hibs, and twenty points ahead of Rangers, who have a game in hand. Hearts, after drawing at home to Inverness, are now three points behind Celtic.

It was a game which had the potential to be a fantastic match, and both sides did not let us down. Celts made only one change from the side who beat Aberdeen last week - Shaun Maloney took the place of Maciej Zurawski, woh was injured. Du Wei made it onto the bench for the first time.

Shaun Maloney, Aiden McGeady and Stan Petrov all had good chances to open the scoringin the opening period. Celtic were dominating the game, and exposing Hibs' immaturity as a side, making the visitors do all the running, whilst Celtic let the ball do all the work.

It seemed only a matter of time before Celtic took the lead, and the Hoops did so only five minutes before half time. Shunsuke Nakamura was again the creator - his cross was powered home with a John Hartson header.

Nakamura is showing himself as a fantastic all round footballer. His touch, vision, posture and composure are all second to none, and what a steal at £2.5 Million!

Celtic were unchanged in the second half, but Hibs replaced the ineffective Derek Riordan with Ivan Sproule.

Hibs surprisingly took the lead a couple of minutes into the second half. Guillamue Beuzellin found himself unmarked in the Celtic box from a corner. His free header went past Artur Boruc's left hand side - where there was no one present on the post.

Hibs took the lead only six minutes later, when Stephen Fletcher had time at the edge of the area to control a fantastic strike, which left the Celtic goalkeeper with no chance.

And so we had another test of this Celtic side's resilliance. For the third game in a row we were behind in the game, and a reaction like last week's was essential if we were to take something from this game.

Nakamura took the bull by its horns as Celts set out to find an equaliser. Naka was fouled at the edge of the box, but took a step back for the resulting free-kick. Shaun Maloney stepped up and curled an outstanding shot into the top right hand corner of the goal. The Hibs goalkeeper did not even move.

With the crowd now getting right behind The Bhoys, it was inevitable the home side would take the lead. Six minutes after Maloney's leveller, it came.

Shaun Maloney's flick appeared to be going just wide of the goal, but John Hartson appeared to tap the ball home, giving Celtic the lead, and giving Big John his second goal of the game.

Hibs had a couple of chances soon afterwards; Boruc saved from Sproule and Thomson's free kick rebounded off the Celtic wall.

Stan Petrov was suffering from a calf strain and his performance today showed this. He had the chance to finish Hibs off with under ten minutes to go, when he was put through with only the goalkeeper to beat. Petrov's poor attempt hit the side netting and summed up a frustrating day for the midfielder. Stan is sure to be back to his best next week.

Only moments later, John Hartson was denied a hat-trick when his header crashed back off the Hibs crossbar.

There was a nervy last few minutes for Celtic, as Hibs pushed for an equaliser. Paul Telfer gave away a needless corner, thankfully nothing came of it.

In injury time, Ross Wallace lost the ball and lost the place at the same time, giving the ball away in his own half. Garry O'Connor and Artur Boruc both raced to win the ball and luckily, Boruc made it first to clear the lines.

The final whistle brought cheers of relief - another great performance and another fantastic three points in a well deserved victory.

And the news from Ibrox is it's getting bitterly cold - apparently it's 20 under!

Come On The Hoops Man Of The Match: Shunsuke Nakamura