Hibee History: McGinlay and Miller deal Celtic a title blow

Kenny Miller is lofted high by John Hughes

Kenny Miller is lofted high by John Hughes

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Goals from Pat McGinlay and Kenny Miller were enough to give sixth-placed Hibs their first home win of the new year and put a dent in Celtic’s title ambitions.

The Glasgow side missed half a dozen chances in the closing stages to steal a win after Mark Viduka dragged them back into the game with a late strike.

Hibs made all the running at a windswept Easter Road and were well worth their three points, if for effort alone.

Their main weapon in the first half was a long diagonal ball to the far post and though hardly sophisticated, Celtic’s back-line failed to cope.

Viduka had forced an early save frm Neil Colgan with a low, near-post drive but when McGinlay stabbed home on 20 minutes, Hibs deserved their lead.

McGinlay was slightly fortunate, Dmitri Kharine’s fingertip save falling right onto his left toe, but the Celtic defence should never have allowed Mixu Paatelainen to cut the ball back in the first place.

Hibs would have been two ahead had Stilian Petrov not made a crucial sliding tackle just as Stuart Lovell was lining up his eight-yard shot.

A Celtic leg was also needed to deflect his fierce right foot shot in the very next minute.

Kharine twisted awkwardly as he dived to his left and was stretchered off to be replaced by Jonathan Gould.

He had to defend the resulting corner and Martin McIntosh appeared to have given him the worst possible start to his Celtic comeback, but referee Jim McClusky ruled the goal out for a shove in the box.

Celtic’s only real creative outlet was the skill and running of Viduka, even when Eyal Berkovic was replaced by young striker Mark Birchill.

Jackie McNamara was attempting to provide the much-needed overlap on the right flank but the poor passing from Morten Wieghorst in particular saw several promising attacks break down without a shot.

McNamara’s cross-shot ten minutes after the break almost led to an own-goal as McIntosh’s attempted cut-out flew goalwards. But fortune was with Hibs as it landed safely into the arms of Colgan.

Luck was with the home side again when they doubled their lead in the 63rd minute.

Franck Sauzee’s speculative free-kick ran through to Dirk Lehmann and though Gould did well to save his first-time shot, the rebound fell kindly to Kenny Miller who smashed it into the empty net.

Hibs apparently decided to shut up shop for the remaining half an hour as the Edinburgh men retreated to their own half.

The tactic backfired as Birchill did brilliantly to hold up Johann Mjallby’s long through-ball until Viduka arrived on his right to slide it home.

That left Celtic with 17 minutes to find the two goals they needed to steal the three points back from Hibs.

They should have equalised nine minutes from time when Viduka’s fierce shot rebounded from a prostrate Colgan to the feet of Wieghorst.

But rather than answer the prayers of the Celtic faithful, the big Dane submitted an entry for miss of the season as he scuffed the ball wide from three yards out.

Three minutes later Alan Stubbs was celebrating the equaliser but his shot cracked the underside of the bar and somehow flew out.

Celtic remained nine points behind Rangers going into the midweek Old Firm clash (Rangers won 4-0). And, ultimately, Hibs ended Celtic’s hopes on April 22 when they secured a 1-1 draw in Glasgow on April 22. Rangers went on to win the SPL by 21 points from their Old Firm rivals.

Hibs: Colgan, Collins, J. Hughes, McIntosh, Smith, Lovell, Sauzee, McGinlay, Miller, Paatelainen, Lehmann. Subs: Gottskalksson, Hartley, Jean, Brebner, Murray.