Celtic v Hibs 17/05/2009

Mark Wilson

Unused Sub Match Shirt

v Hibs 17/05/2009

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Celtic 0 Hibernian 0: Celtic face an uphill battle to win the SPL title after being held by Hibernian.

Celtic face an uphill battle to win the SPL title for the fourth year in a row after being held to a 0-0 draw at Hibernian.

Rangers moved to the summit on Saturday after beating Aberdeen, but Celtic could have reclaimed top spot on goal difference with victory at Easter Road.

However, Gordon Strachan’s men were frustrated by their hosts, with Gary Caldwell and Scott McDonald missing good first-half chances. 

The Bhoys host Hearts at Parkhead next week in the last game of the season while Rangers travel to Dundee United two points clear of the champions.

Hibs had dented Rangers’ title challenge with a 1-1 draw at Easter Road in midweek, but they could barely get out of their own half in the opening moments as Celtic quickly took a grip.

But in the seventh minute, seconds after they had won their first corner of the game, Hibs had their first effort on goal when skipper Rob Jones headed a Derek Riordan cross over the bar from 10 yards.

The champions, though, treated that let-off as a mere blip. In the 11th minute Hibs defender Steven Thicot nicked in ahead of McDonald to prevent the Celtic striker getting a clean strike on an Andreas Hinkel cross, and from Shunsuke Nakamura’s corner, Georgios Samaras headed over.

However, in the 22nd minute, it was Artur Boruc who was the first keeper to be called in to action.

To end a brief spell of Hibs pressure, the Hoops’ keeper pulled off a fine save from Steven Fletcher’s overhead kick, after the Easter Road striker had latched on to a searching Ross Chisholm cross.

In an increasingly tetchy match, former Rangers defender Ian Murray was booked for an overly zealous tackle on Nakamura on the touchline and only sheer numbers inside the six-yard box blocked the Japan international’s whipped-in free-kick.

Six minutes from the interval Caldwell should have taken advantage of a pin-point Nakamura free-kick from wide on the left but he failed to get enough on his header and the ball slipped past the far post and the waiting Hinkel.

In the final minute Celtic missed another decent chance to get the breakthrough when McDonald latched on to a long pass from Caldwell but he screwed his shot from 14 yards wide of the far post.

The champions stepped up the tempo, pressing Hibs back further but they were still wasteful, shown again in the 52nd minute when midfielder Scott Brown headed a long Lee Naylor throw-in over the bar from the edge of the six-yard box.

Celtic’s attacking approach left gaps at the back but Hibs appeared to lack the drive and ambition to take advantage.

In the 61st minute, after busy midfielder Lewis Stevenson had robbed Hartley in the centre circle and set up Riordan on the left, the former Celtic striker’s shot from the edge of the box lacked the conviction to trouble Boruc.

Moments later Fletcher set up Riordan with a quick switch of play but this time the shot from distance sailed over.

In the 65th minute Hibs keeper Yves Ma-Kalambay did well to claw away McGeady’s cut-back which was heading for Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, who had replaced Samaras.

It was all becoming increasingly tense and in the 71st minute Ma-Kalambay did well again when he blocked McDonald’s angled drive after the Australia international had been set up by Vennegoor of Hesselink, who soon afterwards headed a Hinkel cross over the bar.

In the first minute of injury time Jones bravely stuck his head in the way of a Nakamura drive from distance which was almost certainly on target but after three minutes of added time, Celtic had to accept that two valuable points had been dropped.

 

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