Hibs 2-4 Celtic: Hibs fightback not enough to derail Celtic

Hibs skipper David Gray battles with Celtic's Kieran Tierney at Hampden this afternoon
Hibs skipper David Gray battles with Celtic's Kieran Tierney at Hampden this afternoon
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Hibs staged a battling second half-fight back after finding themselves trailing Celtic by two goals but fell short of earning themselves a place in the final of the Betfred Cup as the Hoops made it 60 games without defeat.

Hibs had travelled to Hampden hoping for a repeat of their performance at Celtic Park just three weeks ago but turned in a lethargic first half display to find themselves trailing to two Mikael Lustig goals at the interval.

An Anthony Stokes penalty gave them hope but Moussa Dembele restored Celtic's two goal cushion only for Easter Road kid Oli Shaw to again throw the Capital club another lifeline with his first competitive goal for the club.

But Hibs’ hopes of a return to the national stadium for next month's final vanished as Dembele added his own second of the game two minutes from time,

As might have been anticipated Hibs found themselves under early pressure, Stuart Armstrong's shot deflected for a corner which was taken by the Scotland midfielder, the ball ultimately falling for Scott Sinclair only for goalkeeper Ross Laidlaw to mop up the danger.

But Celtic did take the lead with only 14 minutes on the clock. Dedryck Boyata's head getting the slightest of touches on Armstrong's cross from the left but enough to direct it into the path of Lustig rushing in at the back post and although Laidlaw got his right hand to it as he got down low, he couldn't get enough on it to stop it going into the net.

A late decision by referee Kevin Clancy, who didn't win many fans among the Hibs support for a string of what they saw as poor decisions, to award Celtic a free-kick for Paul Hanlon's challenge on Callum McGregor presented Celtic with a chance to double their lead. But Leigh Griffiths hammered the ball into the defensive wall.

Brandon Barker had given an early demonstration of his pace as he burst into the Celtic penalty area only to see his cross intercepted by Boyata and the on-loan Manchester City winger left Griffiths and Scott Brown trailing in his wake as he set off on another lung-bursting run from inside his own half, his progress halted as Nir Bitton appeared to hand him off although Clancy saw nothing wrong with his challenge.

It took Hibs until the 38th minute to test Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon. Anthony Stokes' free-kick carried plenty of power but Gordon took no chances, electing to beat the ball away from under his bar.

Hibs hopes of reaching the final took a huge blow three minutes before the interval as Grifiiths' corner eluded everyone to find Lustig lurking again at the back post and his strike down into the turf beat Laidlaw at his near post, the Hibs goalkeeper getting both hands to it but only to divert it high into his own net.

Neil Lennon made two changes for the second half as he sought to get Hibs back into the game. Steven Whittaker and Martin Boyle replacing Gray and Marvin Bartley respectively and it almost paid off as 'Whittaker fired in a cross which Vykintas Slivka met with his head but the Lithuanian internationalist was unable to direct the ball on target.

But Hibs were thrown a lifeline in the 58th minute when Stokes caught Boyata in possession, robbing him and feeding Boyle who raced into the penalty area where he was brought down by the Celtic defender as he tried to retrieve the situation. Clancy pointed to the spot and Stokes stepped up to send Gordon the wrong way.

Hibs revival, however, was shortlived, McGregor driving the ball across goal and although Sinclair mis-kicked it fell for Dembele, who had replaced Griffiths five minutes earlier, the striker having time to pick his spot beyond Laidlaw.

Incredibly, though, they were given further hope when 19-year-old Shaw, scorer of five goals in his last two development squad games, scored within two minutes of replacing Slivka.

Whittaker spotted the youngster's run and played the ball in behind the Celtic defence for Shaw to drill a low shot beyond Gordon for his first goal for "the big team."

Laidlaw may have done better with both Lustig's goals but he twice pulled off terrific saves from James Forrest to keep Hibs alive, spreading himself well to deny the substitute and then rising high to his left to touch away a net bound shot.

And Laidlaw did superbly to prevent Dembele adding a fourth for Celtic, deserving the helping hand he got from Hanlon as he diverted the Celtic's striker's effort from the rebound just wide.

There was nothing he could do, though, to prevent Dembele easing Celtic's worries as he fired home his second - and the Hoops fourth goal - two minutes from time.

Laidlaw, Gray (Whittaker 46), Ambrose, Hanlon, Stevenson, Slivka (Shaw 69), Bartley (Boyle 46), Barker, McGeouch, McGinn, Stokes.

Substitutes not used: Marciano, Swanson, S Murray, Boyle, Porteous.

Celtic: Gordon, Lustig, Bitton, Boyata, Tierney, Brown, Armstrong (Rogic 73), Roberts (Forrest 61), McGregor, Sinclair, Griffiths (Dembele 61)..

Substitutes from: De Bries, Dembele, Gamboa, Ntcham, Ajer, Forrest.

Referee: Kevin Clancy.