Hibs 2, Celtic 2: Hosts so close to ending champions' run
Hibs staged a stunning fightback to claim a point from Celtic in a thrilling second-half battle at Easter Road, coming within a whisker of ending the Hoops' unbeaten run which now stretches to 68 domestic games.
Although Celtic dominated the first half, they were unable make the breakthrough. But that all changed after the interval as Scott Sinclair scored twice in five minutes to seemingly put the game beyond Neil Lennon’s players.
But the home side came roaring back, Efe Ambrose sending a deflected shot beyond Craig Gordon before substitute Oli Shaw levelled the match just three minutes later.
And, in a grandstand finish, the teenager was denied the goal which would have ended Celtic’s unbeaten run, Mikael Lustig making a fantastic goal-line clearance to deny the Hibs kid a glory winner after Gordon had spilled Ambrose’s cross in the third minute of added-on time.
Hibs survived a couple of early scares, Lewis Stevenson pulling off a goal-saving challenge on Callum McGregor within two minutes before a wayward pass from Dylan McGeouch was picked off at the edge of the home side’s penalty area by James Forrest.
It gave the Celtic winger a clear sight of goal but, with only Ofir Marciano to beat, he pulled his shot wide. Hibs were thankful for that escape as they tested Craig Gordon for the first time as Martin Boyle chested down John McGinn’s crossfield pass only to see the former Hearts goalkeeper knock away his low shot with his legs.
Hibs, though, were finding themselves under pressure as Celtic dominated possession, boss Lennon seen at the edge of his technical area imploring his players to calm down rather than making the hurried clearances which only invited further trouble.
But, despite being on the back foot for much of the first half, Hibs had blunted Celtic’s threat, goalkeeper Marciano heading up the tunnel at the interval without having really had any meaningful action.
However, the Israeli internationalist came to Hibs’ rescue eight minutes into the second half, using his feet to prevent Sinclair opening the scoring with Ambrose mopping up to boot away Kieran Tierney’s shot from the rebound.
An opening goal for Celtic was only delayed, Sinclair’s shot blocked but falling into the path of Odsonne Edouard whose effort came crashing back off the post and into the stride of his team-mate, who slotted the ball beyond the helpless Marciano.
And it was Sinclair who made it two for Celtic five minutes later, cutting inside Whittaker and firing off a shot which took a deflection to leave Marciano stranded as the ball spun high into his net.
That quick-fire double looked to have floored Hibs but a terrific run from Brandon Barker raised hopes, his parting ball across the face of goal looking as if it would give Anthony Stokes a tap-in at the back post only for Scott Brown to intercept.
But Hibs did get themselves back in the match with 14 minutes remaining, Steven Whittaker’s shot from McGinn’s pass blocked only for Ambrose to force the ball home, via a deflection off Brown.
Celtic immediately looked to restore that two-goal lead, Marciano pulling off good saves from Edouard and Sinclair before, incredibly, Hibs hauled themselves level, substitute Shaw taking Stevenson’s pass to hold off his man and then send the ball high into Gordon’s net.
Shaw had that chance to win the game, but Lustig’s superb clearance ensured Celtic’s run survived. And Boyata could have won it for the visitors in the dying stages, but he headed a free-kick over the bar from a great position.
Hibs: Marciano, Whittaker (McGregor 82), Ambrose, Hanlon, Stevenson, Bartley (Shaw 71), Boyle, McGeouch, McGinn, Barker (Slivka 81), Stokes. Substitutes not used: Dabrowski, Matulevicius, S Murray, D McGregor, Porteous.
Celtic: Gordon, Lustig, Simunovic, Boyata, Tierney, Brown, Ntcham (Armstrong 85), Forrest (Hayes 79), C McGregor, Sinclair, Edouard (Dembele 71). Substitutes not used: De Vries, Bitton, Griffiths, Ajer.
Referee: John Beaton.