A late VAR intervention saw Hibs suffer an agonising defeat to Celtic on a night of high drama at Easter Road, as Nick Montgomery’s men conceded two penalties – one at the start and another at the very end of the game – that handed the league leaders a 2-1 win. Just when it looked as if the introduction of impact sub Myziane Maolida – and a wonderful equaliser from Dylan Levitt – would see the home side rewarded for showing real fight, intent and grit, video assistant ref Andrew Dallas and ref Nick Walsh pinged Joe Newell for a foul on Kyogo Furuhashi just inside the penalty box with the 90 minutes almost up.
Adam Idah, who had converted from the spot inside the opening ten minutes, beat David Marshall for a second time to break Hibs hearts. And leave Monty’s men feeling more than a little hard done by.
Because, after a terrible start, they showed grit and ability aplenty. And arguably could have won this game.
True, they were overly passive from the kick-off,happy to sit deep and invite Celtic to come onto them. They really were asking for trouble. The visitors duly obliged.
Nectar Triantis had already put his team under pressure once in the opening minutes, playing a terrible pass that turned over possession and resulted in concession of a corner, even before he went clattering into Alistair Johnston as the Celtic fullback went up for a high ball. Johnston got there first, took a head into the side of his face as a reward – and referee Walsh had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot.
With a little under four minutes gone, failure to deal with a free-kick into the penalty box – a recurring failing of this Hibs team – had plunged Monty’s men into a fresh crisis. The fact that there was a five-and-a-half-minute delay before Idah sent David Marshall the wrong way from the spot, most of that time spent taking care of Johnston, was the only reason the home side managed to hold out so ‘long.’
With the mental scars from Saturday’s humiliating 3-0 loss to St Mirren sure to be fresh in the minds of many, there was a risk that Hibs might crumble. That they didn’t was a testament to their desire and pride.
Content to sit in and frustrate Celtic, the use of a very un-Monty-like 4-5-1 making it hard for the league leaders to find gaps in the final third, they weren’t entirely without threat. Jordan Obita put in one brilliant delivery that ended with Elie Youan having a shot from 10 yards deflected behind for a corner. If that was as good as it got, in an attacking sense, the home side at least looked more like a team when it came to stopping the opposition; they could even claim a moral victory of sorts in NOT being booed off at half-time.
The introduction of Maolida for an exhausted Vente just before the hour mark proved a turning point, with the fleet-footed attacker immediately winning a free-kick with a show of searing pace to get in behind the Celtic defence. From the set-piece, Joe Newell’s delivery was only cleared to the edge of the box – and Levitt sent a low right-footed volley through the crowd to beat Joe Hart just inside his left post.
Maolida absolutely changed this game, an overhead bicycle kick the best of his efforts. And Lewis Miller, fresh from his international torment in the Asian Cup, wasn’t far away with a sliding finish as Hibs cranked up he pressure inside the closing 10 minutes.
Will Fish also pulled a shot just wide of the target during that final hectic spell, Hibs looking more dangerous than they have done in a very long time. Celtic were on the rack. Under pressure and suffering.
And then, well, can anyone say they were surprised to find another game settled by VAR? The fact that Hibs were applauded off the park at full-time counts for something. Not points. But something.